OPINION: ‘Here we do’ (cut faculty)

Following the developing news of DePaul’s budget crisis, university personnel and students are reacting to attempts made in the past week to patch a $56.5 million gap, partially through faculty cuts. Where DePaul is deciding to cut first reveals what is valued by the university, and what is disregarded. 

As faculty cuts commence, information is being pieced together by students and personnel in attempts to achieve a sense of transparency in this process which proves to be exceedingly puzzling.

DePaul’s mission statement reads as follows: “…we support faculty and staff to be effective educators regardless of their academic discipline or role…” 

With DePaul’s blatant commitment to a diverse community of educators, the cuts that have been seen thus far disprove this mission to the highest degree. 

“They’re not going to save money from this,” said a term faculty professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (LAS), who wished to remain anonymous. “They’re going after us as if we haven’t accomplished anything or given service to DePaul.”

Term faculty at DePaul are instructors who work full-time, on a non-tenured track, while receiving benefits from the institution such as health insurance. 

Not only does cursory termination fall short of addressing such a deep budget gap, but it takes away an important part of DePaul student experience, with many who feel supported and seen by their term faculty in a predominantly white institution. 

“[Term faculty] are also the ones teaching intersectional material, that helps attract students who feel they’re finally being recognized by the literature,” the LAS lecturer said. 

 General enrollment is still facing a decline, with DePaul’s 2020 enrollment summary showing a 0.6% drop.

DePaul should invest more in programs that appeal to an exceedingly progressive and diverse generation of incoming students, with the Pew Research Center concluding that Gen-Z is more racially and ethnically diverse than previous generations. 

This commitment would be a crucial step in helping DePaul extensively achieve the Vincentian mission of an inclusive community.

“Depaul’s supposed commitment to equity and inclusion is proven to be a lie when the services intended to provide these values are slashed so that the highest paid individuals at this university face no consequences themselves,” said Ryan Toomey, a junior political science student.

Erika Sánchez, an acclaimed author with numerous best-selling titles, took to Instagram  on Tuesday following the perplexing news that her contract as a faculty member in the Latin American and Latino studies department would not be renewed.

Ironically, DePaul is attempting to establish itself as a Hispanic serving institution, according to DePaul’s global engagement page.  

“This just further proves to me that success won’t protect you from white supremacy or capitalism, which are one in the same. I will fight them until I croak,” Sánchez wrote.

Students came in herds to support Sánchez, expressing disgust and sadness in losing such a crucial faculty member who helped them to establish their own identity, while recognizing Sánchez’s termination is just a glimpse into the uglier reality of American academia.

“The fact that they ignore our accomplishments makes it easier to fire us,” the LAS lecturer said.

In addition to Sánchez’s termination, a professor in American Sign Language recently received similar news. 

Both the Latino studies program and ASL are integral to upholding the values DePaul advertises. They will flourish with a prioritization of dedicated faculty, which is not the attitude the institution has chosen to adopt. 

Other solutions need to be creatively processed besides rapid cuts of successful and meaningful professors.

“We have an administratively heavy university, and all of those people make in the six digits and have very little touch with what’s going on in the classroom,” the LAS lecturer said. 

“All of us have telephone lines in our offices and none of us use them…that could be some sort of savings,” the lecturer said, signaling numerous imaginative ways to address this shortfall rather than resorting to faculty termination. 

Students are also calling for alternate solutions, suggesting a reduction in the enormous salaries of administrators.

“Cuts should start from the top…rather than harming the people who provide education- the whole point of the university,” Toomey said. 

Salma Ghanem, DePaul’s current provost, accumulated a salary of more than $400,000 in 2021, likely raking in a higher salary today. Eugene Zdziarski, Vice President of Student Affairs, received a salary greater than $340,000 in 2020. 

DePaul should reconsider its verdict in this crisis, and instead continue to establish and nurture departments that aid students in asserting their identities, uplift marginalized students and in turn, do the same for faculty who dedicate their work to doing so. 

“You don’t have a university without the people that teach,” the LAS lecturer said.

The handling of this crisis raises doubt of how dedicated the institution is to the values they present on the billboards in downtown Chicago and on the CTA buses which travel across the city.

But, DePaul’s commitment to a Vincentian mission may just be another opportunity for advertisement and profit.