UB faculty discuss university and department concerns at town hall meeting

President Tripathi and provost Zukoski answer questions from UB faculty members

UB faculty members are concerned about the uneven distribution of money among departments, the low salaries of adjunct instructors, the uneven implementation of general education funds, the lack of parking spaces and how much beer students are drinking in the University Heights.

One by one, faculty members from social sciences, arts and humanities departments asked UB President Satish Tripathi and Provost Charles Zukoski questions concerning these issues during two town hall meetings on Wednesday morning in the Center for The Arts.

Tripathi and Zukoski did not offer specific solutions to many of these problems. They often deflected questions about funding to dean Robin G. Schulze, who sat in the back taking notes but never spoke.

Low pay for adjunct instructors

James Holstun, an English professor, asked if the university was concerned with bringing adjunct professors to reasonable “living wage.” The university recently donated $18 million to a new football field house, according to Holstun, yet adjunct professors are still living on low wages.

“Our adjuncts now, according to your own website Provost Zukoski, make as little as $2700 a course and my very strong sense just anecdotally inside the college is that most of our adjuncts are making right around that much,” Holstun said.

He said in order to make just as much as fast food workers will be making in New York State in two years, adjunct professors would have to teach 11 courses a year, according to Holstun.

Some adjunct professors are finding themselves faced with a choice between food, rent, healthcare and childcare, Holstun said.

“It’s a terrible problem that could be addressed in some ways the same way the new football field is – which is making it a financial priority,” he said.

Zukoski responded stating the complexities of donating to a field house are different than paying adjunct instructors.

He said that the department determines adjunct faculty salaries.

“The challenge that we have is ‘where will we get the money across the campus if we want to eliminate the need for those adjuncts or pay them more?’” Zukoski said.

Zukoski said although he does not have any “immediate solutions” for the low salaries of adjunct faculty, he accepts that being paid $2700 per course is “very sad and appalling.”

UB has fewer adjunct instructors than many other institutions, according to Zukoski.

General education curriculum

Faculty members posed the question of why the general education requirements were revamped.

Zukoski said the decision came from a shared understanding among faculty and administration that the previous general education requirements were not providing UB students the core education they wanted to instill.

The new curriculum emphasizes a “shared UB experience” for students, and increases communication between students and faculty with the freshman seminar, according to Zukoski.

Other professors asked if two years would be enough time to evaluate the successes and failures of the new curriculum. After a long pause, Zukoski simply said, “yes.” He then explained how two years would give them a “pretty good feel” of how to proceed.

Funding for departments

Professors from the economics department expressed concern over dwindling faculty numbers. One professor questioned why they do not receive more funding from the school, given the money they bring in through their Masters program.

Zukoski deferred the problem to a lack of student interest in CSA programs, but Tripathi afterwards acknowledged UB’s economics department is much less popular among students next to comparable universities nationwide.

Another economics professor expressed his concern regarding the College of Arts and Sciences budget. He asked if the new medical school building is taking money from the CAS budget. Tripathi said the medical school is not taking any resources away from the rest of the campus and that rumors frequently come from people who have not seen the budget.

University Heights neighborhood

One professor expressed his concern about UB providing busses for students to go to the University Heights to party. Tripathi gave examples of how the university has worked to reduce partying in the neighborhood, including reduced late-night bussing and working with Buffalo police to give out citations.

He added that the problem goes beyond bussing. He said absentee landlords and city officials are a major part of the problems occurring in the Heights. He said motivation city officials often are more interested in holding a press conference, rather than tackle these problems substantially. Tripathi said UB has paid Buffalo inspectors to inspect housing in the Heights, which helps alleviate the problem.

Lack of parking spaces

One faculty member expressed concern over limited parking.

“I mean, it’s awesome that we have this record-breaking incoming freshman class, but it’s very noticeable that this semester in comparison to other semesters that literally every parking spot within legal walking distance to our office and our classrooms are taken,” she said.

Tripathi did not provide a specific plan or solution, but gave a general view that the parking problem is part of a larger question of how best to transport students between the three UB campuses. 

News desk can be reached at news@ubspectrum.com