After 12 years of declining enrollments and a massive budget deficit, Guilford College is taking drastic action. President Carol Moore proposes laying off 15 tenured faculty members and cutting undergraduate programs in chemistry, physics, political science, philosophy, economics, history, mathetics, sociology, and anthropology.
In an unsigned statement, Guildford announced that it would maintain 23 programs, including African and African American Studies: Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies, and Exercise and Sport Sciences.
Naturally, Guildford's statement did not list the programs it was cutting. I had to find that out by reading a story in the Christian Science Monitor.
Was this a good idea?
Not in the view of some faculty members. Thom Espinosa, chairman of Guildford's Physics Department, had this to say. "This plan does not reflect on the school's philosophy in any way," Espinosa told a reporter.
Historically, Gulford has maintained a peaceful balance among science, arts, humanities, and social sciences, as is appropriate for both a Quaker school and a liberal arts institution. If this plan represents any philosophy or vision, it must be [President Carol Moore's].
I am in total sympathy with Professor Espinosa, but President Moore had to make some difficult decisions. It is not tenable for a small college to lose enrollment over a long period of time and operate on unbalanced budgets.
In a way, Guilford College is in the same position as the German army when it invaded Russia in 1941. The Germans captured 3 million Soviet soldiers before the Russians rallied and cleaned the Germans' clock. But the Wehrmacht had no ability to care for all the enemy troops who surrendered and basically allowed most of its prisoners to die from starvation, disease, and exposure in open fields surrounded by barbed wire.
The German army's position was that someone has got to eat, and it will be us.
I don't mean that as harshly as it may sound, but it is now clear that hundreds and perhaps thousands of tenured professors are going to lose their jobs at struggling liberal arts colleges. I think that is inevitable.
In my view, colleges in financial trouble should spend at least some of their dwindling resources to help laid-off professors find other jobs or at least provide them with decent compensation as part of their termination packages.