By The Gettysburgian Editorial Board
Gettysburg College stands out among other colleges and universities with the incredible opportunities it offers, in and out of the classroom, that greatly enhance the student experience. These opportunities allow students to make practical connections between what they learn in the classroom and the real world, which enables students to make the absolute most out of their short time at Gettysburg.
The Gettysburg Review is regarded as one of the nation’s leading literary magazines. The publication has won countless awards over the years, and its nationwide prominence in the literary world makes it a major draw for prospective English majors to attend Gettysburg College. Since 1988, the college-owned publication has overseen the creation of many highly praised issues featuring poetry, short-stories and essays selected from hundreds of submissions. Review editors Mark Drew and Lauren Hohle have mentored many students interested in the publishing field through their internship program, which runs every semester and is exclusive to Gettysburg College students.
Drew and Hohle are active and valued members of this community who have dedicated their careers to building the Gettysburg Review, making connections in the community and, most important of all, providing opportunities for students to enhance their learning experience.
On Friday, Sept. 29, in a meeting that Drew and Hohle expected to be routine, the two were informed that the Gettysburg Review would be shutting down and that they would be laid off in December. Faculty were informed of the decision on October 3 via email, yet the student body did not receive direct communication on the closure from the administration. The decision came abruptly and without prior warning or communication—English department chair Christopher D’Addario was the only faculty member informed of the decision before its public announcement, but he was informed after the decision was made.
In their email to faculty, President Bob Iuliano and Provost Jamila Bookwala stated that the decision to close the Gettysburg Review was made “after thoughtful consideration.”
“The Gettysburg Review has been a renowned and premier literary journal with a legacy that spans 35 years. We are deeply grateful for the significant contributions made by all those who have been a part of this esteemed publication’s journey including the authors, contributors, readers and supporters,” stated Iuliano and Bookwala.
In the email, Iuliano and Bookwala explained the decision to shut down the Gettysburg Review to faculty in only two sentences: “The changing demographic and enrollment realities across higher education require us to be as strategic as possible in the investment of our limited resources. We must have a more intentional focus on the programs and activities that directly and significantly enhance student demand and the overall student experience.”
Despite praising the Gettysburg Review’s success as a leading literary journal, the administration went forward with their decision to close the Review without first involving the editors or any faculty. Members of the college community believe the administration’s decision was made in ignorance. In its 35 years of publication, the Gettysburg Review has served the campus community—enhancing the reputation of Gettysburg College nationwide while providing opportunities for students.
The English department, which runs a partnership with the Review to place English majors in their internship program, released a statement condemning the closure and explaining the importance of the Review. The statement confirmed that there was no communication from the administration to English faculty before the closure. The lack of communication demonstrates how the decision was made without proper consideration for other options. President Iuliano should be in active communication with departments, working with faculty to make decisions that better the student experience. Instead, the administration continues to make out-of-touch and unpopular changes that worsen the student experience and weaken the college’s reputation.
Directly addressing the administration’s claim that the Review fails to improve the student experience, the department wrote, “The closure of the Gettysburg Review will have a lasting impact on student experience at the college. Every year the Review provides a unique opportunity for several students to intern at the publication, many of whom have gone onto careers in the publishing industry.”
The department’s statement went on to criticize the previous decision by the administration to end most teacher certification programs, which used to be offered by the college in many subjects.
“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. Not all English majors go into teaching or publishing by any means, but these are the kind of tracks parents often ask about first.”
The administration stands willfully ignorant towards what the campus sees as beneficial to the student body, and stays unengaged with the dialogue currently going on between faculty, students and the community.
In a recent interview with The Gettysburgian, Iuliano stated that he is committed to dialogue with faculty on administrative 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.”
Despite claiming his commitment to listening to faculty, there is a clear pattern of President Iuliano’s lack of proactive communication between faculty and administration. Iuliano only communicates with faculty on administrative decisions after his mind is already made up.
Further, The Gettysburgian questioned Iuliano on who made the final decision to close the Review. His response was as follows: “I’m not going to get into the tick-tock of who did what when. The college made this decision because of the focus that we have on the student experience.”
Should students not, at the very least, be consulted on what does and does not strengthen the student experience? Social media is flooded with student support for keeping the Gettysburg Review’s doors open. If Iuliano values the student experience to the degree he has stated, he would reconsider this decision. So far, he has refused to do so.
Closing the Review ignores how dedicated editors Mark Drew and Lauren Hohle are to the campus community. Hohle has worked for the Review for 10 years, while Drew has worked for the Review for just over 25 years. Both have spent their time building the magazine’s institutional importance to Gettysburg College. Such dedicated employees deserve the chance to make necessary changes to keep the Review open. Both Drew and Hohle have stated their desire to work with the administration to decrease costs and keep the journal that they have dedicated so much to open.
The decision to close the Gettysburg Review is another example of how the administration remains out of touch with the desires of the Gettysburg College community. Students, faculty and staff alike have expressed strong disagreement with the decision. A change.org petition to reverse the decision has garnered over 2,400 signatures and counting from students, faculty, alumni and supporters of the humanities across the country. If the administration actually desires to make the Gettysburg College experience better, then it must take real effort to listen to the student body.
Every step in the closure has been mishandled—from the failure to communicate with Drew, Hohle and the English department to the demonstrated lack of understanding of the importance of the Review in the literary world and campus community.
The closing of the Gettysburg Review represents the administration’s unacceptable shallowness towards the desires of faculty, students and staff. It’s not just the Gettysburg Review—the administration’s trend of poor decision-making is clear in acts including the mishandling of safety and crime on campus and in forcing international students to pay a non-waivable $3,500 fee for health insurance beginning this year.
President Iuliano, reconsider this decision. Consider campus opinions. Keep the Gettysburg Review open.
Editor’s Note: This editorial reflects the collective opinion of The Gettysburgian’s editorial board. Editor-in-Chief Laken Franchetti, who was a past intern with the Gettysburg Review, did not participate in the development of this piece nor did she sign off on it.
This article originally appeared on pages 20 to 21 of the No. 2 October 2023 edition of The Gettysburgian’s magazine.