Dear Dean Cormack,
I am writing, as many others are, to express my grave concerns about the AdPrep process. I understand that the decision to look at staff cuts was made by the Chairs Committee, and I accept that it was a hard decision to make but that the situation itself was dire. I even accept that there may be staff positions that have become obsolete or inefficient. I am very concerned, though, about how the process has unfolded. The stress on the staff in our department—who are, as I am sure you have heard, among the most dedicated and professional workers one could hope for—has been horrendous. They have been living in an atmosphere of fear, secrecy, gossip, and threat for months. Their health and wellbeing have been grossly and unnecessarily impinged upon, and nonetheless they continue to perform their jobs with efficiency and kindness.
I do not accept a Faculty of Arts talking about these cuts as being about “functions.” I understand that the purpose of the Faculty of Arts is teaching and research, but as a professor in a humanities discipline, I believe that the humanities, beleaguered as they are, should defend and protect human beings. I do not accept treating our co-workers as “functions” and ignoring the stress that our own “processes” have on them. That we have adopted the language and values of a business setting as an excuse for protecting the arts is, for me, both oxymoronic and deeply shameful. These are human beings, with whom we have worked for years, and who have conscientiously supported us and our students, our research and our teaching. I think that cutting these jobs, especially in the way that it has been conducted thus far, is a terrible stain on our role as defenders of the arts and humanities.
I do not know what is to be done about the situation. If cuts have to be made in the staff, I hope it can be done in a humane manner. I hope that services (job search, retraining, counseling, severence) will be provided for those who lose their jobs. I hope that those who do not lose their jobs are not forced thoughtlessly into new “functions” or into untenable work loads.
These cuts represent a permanent reduction in the Faculty of Arts. This is part of our legacy (for I take the position that all of us are in some way responsible for this) as a twenty-first century Faculty of Arts. I hope that as we go forward, in years that require cuts and in years when we have an expanding budget, that we can undertake decisions in a way that reflects well upon our role as leading thinkers about the arts and humanities and as defenders of their importance in society.
Associate Professor and Associate Chair, Graduate Studies
Department of English and Film Studies
University of Alberta