College of Arts and Sciences faculty discuss funded Ph. D. recruitment pause with dean

Schulze gives resolution to Interim Provost A. Scott Weber asking for more funding, expecting to hear back Monday

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CAS faculty held a meeting with Robin Schulze, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, on Friday to discuss the decision to halt 2020-21 funded Ph.D. recruitment.

She began by apologizing for making the decision “too quickly” and “in all the wrong ways” without faculty input, because of a “financial exigency.”

Schulze met with CAS chairs prior to the faculty meeting and said they came up with a “resolution,” which included asking Interim Provost A. Scott Weber for more funding.

Weber said he would “get back to” the dean on Monday.

CAS faculty members also proposed a resolution to Schulze, asking her to send a letter declaring Associate Dean of Graduate Education David Johnson’s Sept. 19 letter null and void and task the CAS Policy Committee and the CAS department chairs to recommend ways to implement the Ph.D. Excellence Initiative. The resolution also requested Schulze commits to no reduction in Ph.D. students while the policy committee does its work. Those three aspects of the resolution passed, despite there being no quorum at the meeting.

 Schulze said the current size of CAS is “unsustainable,” and she is “working to grow it.”

 “I’m working in the most resource-constrained environment I’ve ever seen,” Schulze said. “This is why I roll into the provost and president’s office every day of the freakin’ week and say, ‘Give us more students, increase the size of the undergraduate class, make us look like more [of Association of American Universities] look.’” 

Schulze said she initially made the decision to increase stipends despite CAS’ budget situation, because stipend levels are “terrible.”

“[The stipends] are the worst I’ve ever seen. I was appalled, I’m still appalled and I honestly believe from the bottom of my heart that we need to do better by our students,” Schulze said. “And this was all about that, because we’re on the brink of becoming irrelevant. We can’t stand that anymore. And I won’t stand that anymore. That’s why I signed this.”

Some faculty agree with the temporary pause in funded Ph.D. student recruitment, saying there are fewer jobs available for them after graduation. Others said decreasing the number of Ph.D. students should be up to the departments, and many faculty members voiced concern with the way CAS made the decision.

“I’m truly wondering, did Johnson just sit down at his desk one day and say, ‘Let’s do this?’” Elizabeth Mazzolini, English professor, asked.

Schulze said she takes “full ownership” for the way CAS handled the decision.

Some faculty said they want more transparency in the decision-making process and for faculty to be involved in any decisions on Ph.D. students in the future.

Brittany Gorny is the senior news editor and can be reached at brittany.gorny@ubspectrum.com and on Twitter @BrittanyGorny.

CORRECTION: English professor Rachel Ablow did not speak at the meeting and was misquoted in a previous version of the article.