Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Big Trouble in Little Albion

I graduated from Albion College in 1974. Today, I (along with all members of the "Albion College family") received an e-mail from Donna Randall, the President of the college. Here it is, in relevant part:

"As we continue to deal with the effects of the economic recession, colleges and universities across the nation, including Albion, are faced with some exceedingly difficult financial decisions.

After thorough deliberation, the Albion College Board of Trustees has determined that the College must reduce the size of the faculty to bring it into alignment with current and anticipated numbers of students. The attached letter details the reasons for this decision and outlines the process that will be followed in achieving these reductions. This action is the latest in a series of measures taken over the past 18 months to balance our revenues and expenses. We believe that at the end of this process Albion College will emerge as a more vibrant institution, fully focused on its strengths..."

The proposed cuts would eliminate 15 full-time faculty positions, which is approximately 10% of the faculty.

I am not sure what is going on at Albion; it used to be a highly regarded liberal arts college, but its reputation and national rankings have slipped in recent years. The economic downturn in Michigan--in the economy as a whole--certainly has not helped.

At the same time, I must admit I have mixed feelings about the college, its poor relationship with its graduates, the ham-handed way it does things (e.g., tearing down the Gerstacker International House) and what it perceives its mission to be.

Here's a link.

Before saying more, I want to think about this.


Blogger Karen J. Weyant said...

It is sad. I am watching liberal arts colleges struggle in the state of New York.

However, on the upswing -- I teach at a community college and our enrollment is almost out of control. We are actually hiring tenure track positions. I know that many people would not regard such positions as "ideal" but I can say JCC is a great place to work. I'm hoping that community colleges can keep their enrollment even when the economy gets better (that's one reason why we are doing well -- no one is working in Western New York).

Here's hoping Albion can work things out.

7:46 AM  
Blogger John Doe said...

The situation is somewhat more distressing than the official notice lets on.

The president and Board of Trustees also want to suspend the Faculty Handbook in order to enforce the cuts with minimal interference or input from the faculty.

Another indication of concern is that some recent pronouncments from the administration refer to other schools in the GLCA (which includes schools such as Oberlin, Kalamazoo, DePauw, Hope, Kenyon) as an "aspirational" group. In the past these were considered as peer instutitions. But now it seems Albion is being positioned in a peer group with slightly less prestigious regional schools like Alma, Adrian, and Olivet -- not that there's anything so bad about those schools, but if students and parents are being asked to pay out some $30,000 a year, they should also know what comparisons to make.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Cindy Hunter Morgan said...

I'm still trying to digest this too. It's awfully disappointing. I feel like any reaction I have is very, well, reactionary, because I don't have a lot of information. But I can't help thinking about the big equestrian center they built, which is a neat thing to offer....but not if it means cutting academic positions. I'm sure, when that was built, they weren't thinking that was the balance or the trade-off. I don't have any information about the costs associated with the complex. and I don't know how relevant it is to this conversation. It's just terribly frustrating that they have compromised the academic integrity of the college. That, first, must be guarded and protected with a fierce sort of commitment.

10:41 AM  

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