By Laken Franchetti, Editor-in-Chief
The Gettysburgian Editor-in-Chief Laken Franchetti and Managing Editor Ella Prieto had a meeting earlier today with President Bob Iuliano and Chief Communications and Marketing Officer Jamie Yates.
Iuliano began the meeting by detailing the broader context of where the college administration is and what they are trying to do. The administration launched the strategic planning process to ensure that they were thinking about how to orient the college and how to make the answer to this question more persuasive to prospective students: “Why Gettysburg?”
What emerged from this process was the Strategic Direction. This incorporates a consequential education for students and the Gettysburg Approach, which contains four pillars: knowledge, enduring skills, a personal advising team and the Guided Pathways.
Iuliano explained that the administration has decided to invest in the future of the College, yet this comes with making hard decisions. He explained that the administration is determining how to best use their resources as profoundly as possible to enhance the student experience and student outcomes. Iuliano reinforced the idea that students come to Gettysburg College to go to a school that is about its students, and this causes the administration to think about how they best organize the College to be fiscally smart, accessible and focused on the student experience.
The Gettysburgian compiled a list of questions relating to numerous topics, conversations and decisions that the College’s administration has lately been involved in. The first portion of these questions centered around the administration’s decision to end the Gettysburg Review.
Iuliano and Yates were questioned first as to what the reasoning was behind the administration’s choice to not approach or consult Gettysburg Review Editor Mark Drew and Managing Editor Lauren Hohle before the decision to terminate the Review was made.
“The fundamental mission of the Gettysburg Review was an external mission. The fundamental objective we’re trying to serve here is a student based mission,” Iuliano said. “So a consultation wasn’t going to change the fundamental mission. It doesn’t mean that our commitment to the humanities, to the experiences that you’ve had, or The Mercury, or the other things that we do, aren’t profound and intense.”
Iuliano was then asked who made the final decision to end the Review as Drew had expressed that Provost Jamila Bookwala voiced it was not her decision. Drew explained the Review’s meeting last Friday with Bookwala: “The meeting that we did have was a meeting where she [Bookwala] told us that they had decidedㅡnot her, she said it was not her decisionㅡthat they had decided that the Gettysburg Review would cease publication.”
Iuliano answered that the College made the decision.
“I’m not going to get into the tick-tock of who did what when,” Iuliano said. “The college made this decision because of the focus that we have on the student experience.”
Iuliano and Yates were then questioned if the administration was aware when making this decision that the Review currently had student interns for the fall and spring semesters. In a statement released by the English Department, it was believed that the administration was not aware of this.
“I can’t speak to the conversation that the Provost may have had. We have a good sense of what the Gettysburg Review does and its mission and the like, and again, go back to the principles about the orientation of the Review. It’s fundamentally external. We’re trying to devote our time and our attention in ways that maximize the student experience,” Iuliano answered.
It was revealed at the faculty meeting yesterday that Chairperson of the English Department Christopher D’Addario was aware of this decision to end the Gettysburg Review before it was publicly known. D’Addario states that Bookwala instructed him to keep this decision confidential. The Gettysburgian questioned when D’Addario had been made aware of this decision.
“Laken, with respect, I’m not going to get into the tick-tock of all of this,” Iuliano said. “I do want to be clear, we did not ask him [D’Addario] for his advice on that. We just made sure he knew about it because of the relationship that the English Department has to the Review… he was asked by the Provost to hold it [the news of the decision] in confidence because it was a personal decision.”
Iuliano and Yates were then asked why the email revealing the Gettysburg Review’s termination was only sent to faculty, administrators and staff of the College but not the study body, and they were questioned as to whether an official notice would be sent to students.
“It’s a good question. I think it’s something that we can think about,” Yates answered. “You’re right, it did only go to faculty, to administrators, to all employees. That was the decision that was made.”
Iuliano said that this was the typical way to communicate to the employee bodies about employment related decisions.
The Gettysburgian then informed Iuliano and Yates that the Review has had numerous offers of purchase and offers to begin fundraising campaigns. Iuliano and Yates were questioned as to if the administration would consider any of these avenues rather than ending the publication.
“The Review has been around for 35 years. These issues are not new over the course of the 35 years. We have not seen a number of folks coming forward to ultimately create the sort of endowment that would allow the Gettysburg review to turn with a greater degree of financial independence,” Iuliano said. “It would take more than four million dollars, probably closer to five, to endow the Gettysburg Review. I have not heard any suggestion that that is possible given the 35 years that it has been in existence.”
Iuliano was then questioned on the Gettysburg Review budget that he utilized at a faculty town hall meeting on Wednesday to demonstrate the publication’s financial situation. The English Department’s statement claims that this budget overestimated the annual cost to run the Review by including an old employee’s salary, and Professor of English and Graeff Chair Christopher Fee spoke on this issue at yesterday’s faculty meeting.
“I’m pretty confident that our finance team gave me the information that is the accurate information, and you can see, by virtue of the expenditures, that the expenditures actually have been reduced by virtue of the position being removed from the budget,” Iuliano answered. “I have confidence in my finance team. They are following the budget.”
Iuliano and Yates then addressed the recent rumors that Iuliano and Bookwala’s emails had been turned off due to the receival of messages regarding the Review or that their inboxes were full.
“I saw that yesterday too and already spoke with I.T., and we’re not doing anything to block emails. Same is true of the Provost,” Yates said.
Iuliano was asked if he plans to respond or acknowledge the messages he has been receiving from the community.
“I think we will continue to think about the best way to engage the community during this period of time,” Iuliano answered.
In light of the messages and letters that he has been receiving from alumni, students and the greater community, Iuliano was asked if he still maintained the belief that the Gettysburg Review did not substantially or directly support the student experience, a belief that he expressed in yesterday’s faculty meeting.
“I agree that it’s [the Gettysburg Review’s] fundamental purpose is not about the student experience. The student experience is ancillary to that, and in a time that we are really focused on the student experience, I would like to focus on the student experience directly, not in an ancillary way,” Iuliano said.
Iuliano was asked to respond to the claims that faculty made at yesterday’s faculty meeting that the college administration is devaluing the opportunities in the humanities.
“I think that any suggestion that this is about the humanities is mistaken. This is about our commitment to focus on the student experience,” Iuliano said. “We just got a phenomenal gift that is about the intersection of arts, culture and music. The English department is one of the 10 largest departments in the college. We have a phenomenal Writing Center, so I don’t see any indicationㅡand I would really resist the suggestionㅡthat we’re doing something that is seeking to diminish the humanities.”
Iuliano insisted that this decision was not about the humanities: “This is not about the humanities. This is about trying to make sure, again, that where we spend our money, we spend it in a way that most directly affects the student experience.”
Iuliano remained open to having discussions with faculty about the administration’s decisions.
“We absolutely will continue to engage and have conversations, even following the faculty meeting, with members of the English Department, so we will continue to engage all of our faculty,” Iuliano explained. “Just as we are talking with you [The Gettysburgian] today, we will always engage our faculty in an ongoing dialogue about their perspective on the decisions we are making and need to make.”
Iuliano and Yates were asked if the college administration knew where the funds from the commitment made by Daria Lo Presti Wallach ’76 would be going. Iuliano explained that this is an unrestricted commitment: “When we receive it [the commitment], it is unrestricted, which means as we receive it, we [the administration] will be able to allocate it in ways that serve the best needs of the college. That is a further sign of the remarkable generosity of this donor.”
Iuliano and Yates were asked if they had any general comments about the current situation regarding the administration that they wanted to address.
“I do think there is a bigger part to this story than just the Gettysburg Review part, though we understand how important that is,” Yates said.
Iuliano agreed with Yates and expressed the importance of framing this decision with the college administration’s mission to better student experience and student outcomes.
“I’m not surprised that you got to the Gettysburg Review, but if you’re not situating this in the set of the broader priorities that we are trying to advance, our commitment to the student experience, making the place accessible and preparing you for the future that is going to require us to make hard choices. We can’t do everything,” Iuliano said.
Iuliano reiterated the administration’s want to give students substantial, direct experiences that better student outcomes: “We’re in the position of trying to change lives, and we want to do that as effectively as we possibly can, and if we are able to give you [the student body] more direct experiences, that has promise, and that is what we’re trying to do.”
Iuliano and Yates were asked a final question about a rumor concerning the potential merging of smaller departments on campus, such as Women, Gender and Sexuality Studies, the language departments and Africana Studies.
“We have a new Provost, and the new Provost is trying to think about, again, how do we organize ourselves in ways that are most efficient and effective within the student experience. What form that’s going to take, it’s so early to tell,” Iuliano replied.
Iuliano closed the meeting by reflecting on the period that the College is currently in.
“We are in a moment of transition and transformation, and that’s creating anxiety,” Iuliano said. “Let’s make decisions, let’s talk about the impact of decisions, and let’s worry less about possibilities, and really focus on what we’re actually going to do.”
Editor’s Note: The author of this article served as an intern for the Gettysburg Review last spring semester. This article was edited at 3:18 p.m. on October 9, 2023 to correct the spelling of a phrase used by President Iuliano.