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Wednesday, April 17, 2024
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College of Arts and Sciences confirms hiring ‘pause’ for ‘limited number’ of positions

About 30 students protested the ‘cuts’ and called for CAS dean’s resignation

<p>At least 20 demonstrators, led by classics Ph. D. student Tina Bekkali-Poio, took to Clemens Hall Thursday afternoon to call for CAS Dean Robin Schulze to resign.</p>

At least 20 demonstrators, led by classics Ph. D. student Tina Bekkali-Poio, took to Clemens Hall Thursday afternoon to call for CAS Dean Robin Schulze to resign.

The College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) will pause hiring for a “limited number” of Ph.D. lines and faculty positions, a CAS spokesperson confirmed shortly after a second protest against the planned staffing reductions. 

The College of Arts and Sciences plans to hire 30 fewer teaching assistants (TAs) next year, reducing the total number of TAs in the college from 515 to 485, Graduate Student Employees Union (GSEU) head Joey Sechrist told The Spectrum Thursday evening. Sechrist says UB provided those numbers to GSEU on March 19.

“We are slowing our growth in the College to assess all the investments made to date as we continue to plan for the future,” a CAS spokesperson told The Spectrum in an email Thursday night. “The College has implemented a pause on a limited number of faculty searches and some Ph.D. recruitment lines as we assess the need for adjustments moving forward. 

“To be clear, there are no proposed department cuts currently under discussion,” the spokesperson said. 

The spokesperson added UB has invested significantly in the college, which he described as “the heart of UB.” The university expects to have added 36 instructional faculty and 42 tenure-track faculty between the 2021-22 academic year and this coming fall.

His comments echo the content of a PowerPoint presentation obtained by The Spectrum that was delivered at a meeting of CAS department chairs and directors on Feb. 28. That presentation said the college “has grown its faculty at an astonishing rate over the past three years,” but that lower class enrollment due to the COVID-19 pandemic and expected state funding that “did not materialize” have led to financial losses.

“Every department needs to consider reducing spending in light of the combination of growth of tenure lines and decline in enrollment,” the presentation reads.

The CAS spokesperson’s statement comes after around 20 demonstrators, led by classics Ph. D. student Tina Bekkali-Poio, took to Clemens Hall Thursday afternoon to protest what they called cuts and to call for CAS Dean Robin Schulze to resign.

“Unlike you, I am not a coward. Unlike you, the students of classics are not cowards,” Bekkali-Poio said, referring to Schulze. “We will not stop until your resignation letter is delivered to us in our email inboxes. This is a threat.”

The spokesperson called the “coward” comment “unnecessary.”

GSEU has tried to meet with representatives of the college to no avail, Sechrist says. They added that the hiring freezes “disproportionately affect smaller departments with fewer Ph.D.s and faculty overall, such as Comparative Literature and Classics.”

“It is unjust that the university is eager to shrink incoming cohorts and weaken our departments while our upper-level administrators make hundreds of thousands of dollars a year and spend millions on new buildings,” Sechrist wrote in an email to The Spectrum. “These ‘pauses’ are sadly indicative of the university's unwillingness to adequately fund robust arts and sciences programs that can remain competitive with peer institutions.”

In a mass email to graduate students obtained by The Spectrum, Schulze said that she has asked all departments to pause hiring for at least one Ph.D. position, and that she did not single out the Classics Department. She wrote that she “asked Classics not to book classes with historically tiny enrollments, or to be sure to balance those classes with much larger classes.”

“The College will be canceling classes that do not fill,” Schulze wrote. She said CAS must uphold its expectations for course enrollment.

“We are now in the position where we must honor them for the sake of the College as a whole,” she wrote. “I never used the word cut. There have been no cuts.”

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Thursday's protest follows a similar demonstration that occurred before spring break. 

Carrying signs that mocked UB’s refusal to use the term “cuts” and calling for Schulze’s resignation, demonstrators at Thursday’s protest booed at several points as Bekkali-Poio read Schulze’s email aloud.

“Thank you, Robin G. Schulze,” Bekkali-Poio shouted through a megaphone. “Thank you for putting this response in writing. Thank you for giving us something that we can really sink our teeth into.”

She also named two professors, Valentina Trotta and Davide Salvo, whose positions she said were “permanently paused.”

Bekkali-Poio said she will lead pr​​otests every Thursday until the Faculty Senate meets on April 16. At that meeting, she hopes CAS faculty within the body will vote no confidence in Schulze.

CAS is UB’s largest academic unit. Schulze became the college’s dean in 2016. 

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article misidentified the CAS spokesperson. We regret this error.

Mylien Lai contributed to the reporting of this article.

Alisha Allison is an assistant news editor and can be reached at alisha.allison@ubspectrum.com

Sol Hauser is the senior news editor and can be reached at sol.hauser@ubspectrum.com

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