A message from a fellow grad student in my program is below; the message is notable for its impassioned tone of anxiety.
Likely, the University of Arizona English literature (my program) and the "RCTE" (rhetoric composition and teaching of English -- i.e. composition) will be viscerated. (I love that word.) Profs will retire and no one will replace them. Our department will accept more and more work-for-free grad students like me, and have them teach more students, and pressure them to get the same amount of actual grad student work done.
I'm not really that attached to my department. I'm moving away; that's part of it. I'm fairly comfortable with the state legislature cutting funding for Arizona universities. If they want their state to suck -- and at very real levels like poverty, crime, illegal immigration, children without health care, infant mortality, the list goes on, Arizona does suck -- that's fine by me.
Hopefully, most of you received the recent letter from President Shelton about the "Budget Management Process," and looked at it. I know that I usually ignore this kind of thing, and pretty much hit "DELETE" about as fast as I can. Even so, I checked it out.
What I found was pretty concerning, and I think we should all pay strict attention to the University's financial situation in the next year or so. President Shelton's even keel covers the fact that we will need to make $9.3 million in cuts over the next year or so. In reality, this number may go up as increased enrollment, new technologies, and support programs for students are put into effect. While the U of A is a 1.5 billion dollar enterprise, it's important to realize that we may be cutting as much as 10% of our "base budget" in the next two years.
Here's the part that really concerned me:
"I am asking deans to take this moment to plan and execute strategic decisions on behalf of their colleges in ways that build upon notable academic strengths and priority mission directions, while at the same time reducing those programs or activities within their colleges that are of less impact relative to the college core mission. Given the competing needs for resources within an under-resourced university, I am counting on deans to engage even more emphatically in strategic investment decisions." (Emphasis added)
Many of you may remember last year's meeting with Dean Tatum to talk about faculty hiring and a reducing of the instructional budget. It didn't go well. Suffice it to say, I'm completely convinced that he'll carve up the English department like a rack of lamb if he gets half a chance. He's admitted almost as much; cutting is cheaper and faster than fundraising.
I was once in an interdisciplinary program (CCLS - Comparative Cultural and Literary Studies) here at the U of A that was cut like this. Trust me when I say that impending cuts are a real possibility. However, the English department is much better equipped to deal with this than we were in CCLS because of our attention to working as a unit and our ability to advocate aggressively on our own behalf.
I'm begging anyone who's a first-year, or second-year student in any English department program to join the EGU (English Graduate Union) as soon as possible, start getting involved with GPSC (Graduate & Professional Student Council), and to start watching the statements of the President and ABOR (Arizona Board of Regents).
EGU is only as strong as the membership, and I urge everyone to think strategically about joining.
President Shelton is on a long-term timetable. His fiscal management plans may take as little as five years, or as long as ten. The greatest mistake for GAT's to make, is to think short-term in this regard. As long as our focus is only on the four or five years that we're here, our programs, benefits, and budget as a whole is in danger once the tower guard graduate. We need to continue to be aggressive advocates not only for ourselves, but for the future "generations" of grad students to come.
First and second year students right now will be on the front lines of these budget cuts in a year or so. That's why your help is needed so badly. There are good people in EGU who know the politics, know the players, and know how to be effective. What we need are members who can learn, are willing to help, and care not only about themselves, but the integrity of the English department as a whole.
Sure, EGU is fun. It's a great place to hang out with people, share stories about teaching, celebrate victories on exams, and talk about our dreams of future employment, but it's also filled with people who care about where we are, and who we're with, right now. Consider it the English department grad student minuteman militia - we're "Johnny-on-the-spot" when there's a problem with loads of red t-shirts in hand to argue our case. Come for the fun, stay for the fight. (By the way, the constant justification of why what we do is important is good practice for job interviews)
Bad things happen when good people do nothing, so I hope to see everyone in the Spring at the first EGU meeting for next semester.