By Laken Franchetti, Editor-in-Chief
Today, the English Department released a statement regarding the college administration’s decision to terminate the Gettysburg Review. The statement was distributed in the faculty and student digests.
The statement directly addressed President Bob Iuliano and Provost Jamila Bookwala. The English Department expressed their shock that Gettysburg Review Editor Mark Drew and Managing Editor Lauren Hohle were not consulted prior to the decision.
“We are particularly shocked that there was absolutely no conversation about this extreme action with either Mark Drew or Lauren Hohle, the editors of The Gettysburg Review, or the faculty of the English Department, let alone the larger campus community of faculty, staff, and students,” the statement read. “We fear this decision was made without important knowledge of the national literary landscape. While cost cutting might be understandable, this sort of autocratic mandate with no professional, disciplinary input is detrimental to the student experience far out of proportion to the savings garnered.”
The English Department stated that the Review is responsible for making Gettysburg College known to those in the literary arts.
“For thirty-five years, The Gettysburg Review has served nationally as the primary way people involved in the literary arts learn about and are attracted to Gettysburg College,” the statement said. “These people include the majority of the current faculty of the English Department, every single one of the twenty-three individuals who have served as the Emerging Writer Lecturer in the department, and numerous matriculating students interested in the literary arts at Gettysburg College.”
The English Department’s statement also recognized how the loss of the Review will impact student experience as the publication’s student internship opportunity has been terminated as well. The statement mentioned the loss of the teacher certification program as well.
“It’s especially odd that an administration so concerned with vocational advising, tracks, and outcomes has made decisions that woefully undermined two of the most helpful aspects of the College in that regard for English majors,” the statement read. “Not all English majors go into teaching or publishing by any means, but these are the kind of tracks parents often ask about first. These opportunities lead directly to jobs or opportunities for further education that ultimately lead our graduates to fulfilling careers and consequential professional lives.”
The statement also gave an example of an income-generating opportunity for the college that would allow the English Department and the Review to partner together.
“The English department in partnership with The Gettysburg Review could, for example, run an adult open-enrollment summer writing conference, or even offer year-round online writing workshops and tutorials. English department faculty are interested in participating in such revenue generating workshops and classes,” the statement read. “Dismantling The Gettysburg Review undermines one of the college’s essential and distinguishing strengths, and it is contrary to the mission, values, and vision of the College.”
Professor of English and former Chairperson for the English Department Kathryn Rhett spoke with The Gettysburgian and explained that the English Department has not structurally been connected to the Review since former editor Peter Stitt left the position.
“From a departmental perspective, our structural connection to The Review ended with the retirement of founding editor Peter Stitt, who used to teach courses in twentieth century poetry. But our alignment with and collegial connection to The Review remains,” Rhett said.
The English Department’s statement further detailed concern over the administration’s lack of conversation surrounding the Gettysburg Review’s termination.
“Rather than disbanding a prestigious, time-honored institution at the College, wouldn’t it make more sense to ask: how can we foreground this nationally known literary magazine, which Peter Stitt brought into being in the 1980s and spent his career making one of the most revered literary journals in the country, given our current values and curriculum? This is the conversation we should be having,” the statement said.
Rhett felt that this lack of communication and the resulting decision demonstrated a disrespect of the humanities on campus.
“I am stunned that the administration of Gettysburg College has attempted to close this magazine without even having a conversation with editors Mark Drew and Lauren Hohle. The Gettysburg Review put Gettysburg College on the map for creative writing and has made me proud to teach at Gettysburg College,” Rhett said. “While the stellar reputation of the Review helps create our institutional strength, the thoughtless decision to close it reflects general disrespect for and ignorance by this administration of our humanities and creative arts programs on campus.”
Rhett explained the numerous ways in which the Gettysburg Review provided opportunities for students.
“Mark and Lauren have always served as a resource to our undergraduate writing and art magazine, The Mercury. They have always participated in our summer writing program for high school students, the Young Writers’ Workshop. They have supervised internships that have helped our students flourish at and after leaving Gettysburg College. Most importantly, they have continued—despite reduced budget and staffing—to produce one of the most respected literary journals in the United States,” Rhett said.
The statement from the English Department explained how in a recent discussion with faculty, the administration overestimated the annual cost to run the Review.
“In the recent report to the faculty, figures were cited for the cost of The Review over the past several years that seemingly included a staff member who left the College years ago; this figure also seemed to exclude the annual grants The Review brings in and the rebate of unused operating funds the journal pays to the college. The actual cost of running The Gettysburg Review is lower than the number presented to faculty and staff,” the statement revealed.
The English Department also explained that the college administration did not appear to know prior to their decision that student interns had to complete the semester-long opportunity to receive credit, refunds had to be organized for subscribers, and contributors had to be paid according to withstanding contracts.
“In fact, the administration seems to have done no fact-finding at all regarding the impact and ramifications of firing two long-time colleagues and members of the college community and eliminating a nationally-renowned publication with no notice,” the statement said.
Current Gettysburg Review student intern Brandon Banda ’24 is set to graduate in December, and he is completing the internship for course credit in order to graduate on time.
“When Mark broke the news to us, he mentioned that the Provost and the President’s office didn’t even know the Review had interns that needed credits to count toward the major,” Banda said. “Furthermore, when the email about us closing was finally sent out, only the faculty was made aware of the decision, not the student body. The least they could do was let the students that were affected by it know.”
Banda expressed his hope that the administration’s decision can be reversed.
“Although the wheels are in motion of dismantling the magazine and terminating Mark and Lauren, I’m hopeful that the English Department, fellow and former English majors, the student body, and donors are able to hear of this mistaken decision and speak out on the matter,” Banda said. “The more people are aware of and against this decision, the likelier it will be to overturn this choice and keep the Review open.”
Savannah Metzger ’25 is another student completing a for-credit internship with the Gettysburg Review. Metzger does not plan to go into the publishing field after graduation, yet she felt that the skills she would gain from the internship could benefit her regardless.
“Although I do not plan on going into publishing, I aspire to be a high school English teacher. I intend to bestow my newfound editing skills upon my students and help them improve their writing,” Metzger said. “I will be better equipped to support my students in their academic journeys after this experience, and maybe even inspire a few to pursue a career in editing, publishing, or writing.”
The English Department’s statement concluded with the department urging the administration to rethink their decision: “We urge you to reconsider this monumental decision. Higher education is primarily a conversation; let’s please have one here and now about the necessary existence of The Gettysburg Review and its path forward to survival.”
Editor’s Note: The author of this article served as an intern for the Gettysburg Review last spring semester.