In a very quiet announcement, the administrators at the University of New Hampshire sent a letter to 18 lecturers informing them that their contracts would not be renewed for next year.
“The contracts of 18 lecturers in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of New Hampshire were not renewed, and one affected man says he’s heartbroken after receiving the news in the mail over winter break.
English lecturer Nathan Webster, of Stratham, a veteran who served during Operation Desert Storm and then worked as a photojournalist in Iraq, teaches first-year writing and introduction to creative nonfiction, he said.
“I’m the only war veteran in the English Department, and the letter I got (just a letter, no call, no personal contact at all) was dismissive and blunt and the reasons given are contradictory and unclear,” Webster said via email Friday.
“The letter claimed a severe budget shortfall but a new announcement said it was to enhance program strength by ensuring the highest degree in the field,” he wrote.
A copy of the letter Webster received this week from Dean Heidi Bostic said his employment ends May 18.
“The reason for this non-renewal is that the College of Liberal Arts is currently confronted with a substantial deficit,” Bostic wrote. “With future programmatic needs forecast in mind, we have been forced to make some painful reductions and strategic realignments in teaching faculty.””
Within a week of the non-renewals being sent out, the UNH Lectures Branch of the American Association on University Professors (AAUP) sent a letter to Dean Bostic requesting details on why the lecturers were not renewed.
Dear Dean Bostic,
The recently announced cuts of Lecturer faculty were dramatic and unanticipated. Many of us across the University have questions about this decision, and we write to you now to ask you to provide more information to the community about these cuts.
In particular, we request the Deans’ office address:
- The College financial situation. We call on you to provide specific details about the COLA finances. Detailed financial reports for the college would allow for the transparency needed to understand the context of recent cuts to the teaching faculty.
- An articulated plan for how the more than 100 sections of courses taught by the non-renewed faculty members will be covered. We request you address the following questions: Will COLA be reducing the number of classes? Will upper-level classes be eliminated? Will faculty teaching those upper-level classes be moved into lower-level courses? Is the intention to renegotiate faculty workloads or to hire more faculty? Cuts to teaching faculty compromise programs, as well as students’ experiences and opportunities; therefore, your plan here is a matter of concern for all community stakeholders.
- The otherwise unannounced and unexplained new requirement for Lecturer Faculty to possess the terminal degree of a PhD. Your January 19 email stated that the affected faculty “were not renewed as the result of a desire to enhance program strength by ensuring that faculty members have the highest terminal degree in their field.” We request explanation for why this criterion is cited now, when it has never been a factor of the hiring, review or renewal of these faculty. As you are aware, many of these faculty members were repeatedly reappointed on the basis of their teaching experience and performance in the classroom. In addition, these lecturers have been reviewed by your office as meeting or exceeding your expectations annually. Further, seven of the affected faculty had been promoted to the ranks of Senior or Principal Lecturer, and their degrees did not play a role in these promotion decisions. How does your own recent assessment and promotion of these teachers connect with the notion that they are suddenly unqualified? We request explanation for the logic and soundness of this new criterion.
These are among the many questions raised by the recent cuts of Lecturer Faculty. We call on you to provide answers.
UNHLU-AAUP Executive Committee
Now the students are rallying behind the educators.
The student groups, Humans of UNH and UNH Young Democratic Socialists of America, are teaming up to hold a rally on Friday Feb 16th, in support of reinstating these educators.
The University of New Hampshire has just made significant cuts to lecturer positions in several departments in the College of Liberal Arts. Cuts to lecturer positions will directly affect the quality of education at the University as well as the course options available to students. Students at UNH should expect to have access to a wide-range of courses that will prepare them to succeed in an increasingly global economy.
Long-serving and committed lecturers in French, Spanish, Arabic, ESL, English, History, and Political Science have been informed that their contracts will not be renewed.
Stand in solidarity with affected lecturers and UNH employees. Come and listen to the testimonies of students and alumni directly affected by the recent lecturer cuts.
Join them if you can.