By Laken Franchetti, Editor-in-Chief
Gettysburg College is currently facing budgetary pressures that have caused them to make and propose decisions that have elicited strong reactions from faculty and students.
In an interview with The Gettysburgian, President Bob Iuliano explained that the administration has launched a new strategic planning process, which causes the administration to determine what resources best enhance the student experience and student outcomes. Iuliano said that by investing in the future of the College, the administration will have to make hard decisions.
The Gettysburg Review’s Closure
The first of these decisions to be made was the termination of the Gettysburg Review, a literary magazine that has been published at the College for 35 years. Gettysburg Review Editor Mark Drew and Managing Editor Lauren Hohle were not consulted prior to this decision and were not allowed to propose alternative routes for funding or financial relief.
“It’s difficult for me to discern what this administration values—they create Democracy Week, then don’t implement democratic practices; they tout co-curricular learning, then shutter a nationally-recognized magazine and balk when students and alumni write in to say how much interning at the Review meant to them,” Hohle said.
Drew reflected on what this decision meant for the humanities at Gettysburg College.
“Whenever an arts organization like the Gettysburg Review is removed, it’s a loss particularly to English departments, but certainly to the humanities as a whole, one that further diminishes them as a legitimate and consequential field of study, but also as a potential career path. Jobs are quite literally being lost,” Drew said.
Iuliano stated that the Review did not help to maximize the student experience: “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.”
Drew disagreed with this belief and feels that the administration did not understand the publication’s mission.
“I wholly reject the notion that the Gettysburg Review ‘did not enhance the student experience.’ This characterization is simply an attempt to justify their decision, which was a fiscal one made without a full understanding of the historical role the Review has played as a representation of the college’s once celebrated but currently denigrated commitment to literature and the arts,” Drew said.
Drew felt that the decision to end the Gettysburg Review diminishes the value of a Gettysburg College education: “…a degree from Gettysburg College carried weight in the academic, publishing, and art worlds, thus enhancing the appeal of students interested in jobs in those areas, and elevated the respectability and notoriety of the degree in general. Sadly, this decision has already significantly diminished the value of a Gettysburg College diploma.”
Professor of biology Véronique Delesalle objected to the idea that the Gettysburg Review was not an asset worth preserving, and she shared her perspective on the publication’s termination as a professor in the sciences.
“The social and natural sciences are often perceived as having mostly or only utilitarian value but as biology professor I can attest that many of us are motivated by the beauty of the natural world,” Delesalle said. “In contrast, the arts and humanities are too often perceived as having mostly intrinsic value and consequently having to defend their existence by arguing for their utilitarian value. That is just wrong. And if we cannot preserve the Review, how can we tell students that we as an institution value the arts and humanities?”
Delesalle believed that the administration should have allowed the Review the opportunity to explore other cost-saving measures such as donors or partnering with another school to share the publication and its costs.
“Over the last ten years the Review had already been asked to save money by shrinking its staff from four to two and by reducing its publishing costs, going from a quarterly to triannual format,” Delesalle said. “It did so while maintaining its excellence and exceeding its annual revenue expectations. As such, the Review deserved an opportunity to fight for its life. To not offer them that opportunity was the wrong decision.”
English with a writing concentration major Molly Griffith ’23 felt that the decision to end the Gettysburg Review in order to maximize the student experience was misguided and false.
“It’s becoming more and more obvious that the administration does not value or understand the student experience they claim to so greatly prioritize, particularly the humanities who are such a esteemed part of the college who again and again are forced to suffer for the good of the whole without any transparency about why,” Griffith said.
Griffith believed that the administration is not valuing the humanities or listening to their concerns. She felt disrespected by the administration’s decision and their apparent lack of reservations.
“As a student of the humanities, it’s deeply clear that the so-called student experience does not apply to us and that we are not valued or listened to by the structure of power currently in place,” Griffith said. “It’s disheartening and disrespectful that the administration has no qualms about treating such a respected and important part of the faculty and student body this way.”
Proposal to Adjust Lab Teaching Credit
The humanities are not the only area of study being affected by the administration’s decisions and proposals. The College’s current system counts labs as one teaching credit, which is the equivalent to teaching one course or lecture. A change to this system has been proposed to faculty so that labs count as half credit. This proposal has not yet been finalized.
Tenure-track faculty, who are currently tenured faculty or those that are on the pre-tenure track, teach the equivalent of five courses over the course of a year. If this proposal were to be approved, Provost Jamila Bookwala believes these faculty members could be involved in additional courses such as first-year seminars.
“So, if we have 182 labs in a given year, we are talking about 182 courses or course equivalents… yes, they are teaching very important work, not to deny that that is important information and important skills that our students are learning, yet it is an unsustainable model,” Bookwala said. “Their instruction could have been redirected to a first-year seminar or the sophomore seminars that are soon to go online.”
Associate professor of physics Dr. Jacquelynne B. Milingo shared her concerns with the proposed system change.
“I can only speak in terms of the physical science faculty, but if you decrease or minimize the value of labs, that’s less time spent with students and/or less time spent doing anything outside of our teaching assignments,” Milingo said. “Decreasing the quality of the educational experience in labs, and placing a disproportionate burden on the physical science faculty, directly affects our students and weakens their ability to compete nationally. It also affects the reputation of the College in the physical sciences and our ability to attract students in the future.”
Bookwala shared that department chairs have been asked to give their thoughts on the proposal, and Milingo gave her take on this process.
“The Provost is currently gathering input from the department chairs,” Milingo stated. “She’s asked them to gather data and discuss how we might maximize ‘curricular efficiency,’ but it’s slow going, and she wants to make decisions immediately, which is making the faculty very nervous. We don’t want to see hasty edicts coming from the administration.”
Milingo referenced the Gettysburg Review’s termination and the lack of communication between the administration and the publication’s staff before the decision was made.
“We all see what is happening with The Gettysburg Review and our valued colleagues Lauren and Mark,” Milingo said “That careless, uninformed, and extremely callous action has affected our community deeply. There was no conversation and no compassion in that decision or how it was executed. Our trust in this administration is on shaky ground.”
Part-time faculty, which includes adjunct positions, have had year-long appointments in the past. However, the administration has decided to adjust adjunct faculty to semester-by-semester appointments. Bookwala explained that semester-by-semester appointments would allow the administration to better reevaluate the need for adjunct faculty members.
“They [adjunct faculty] used to get year-long contracts, and they could teach up to five courses. That’s an unusual way to hire adjuncts because part-time faculty are really intended to fill gaps. You have to be nimble in your use of part-time faculty, or adjunct faculty,” Bookwala said. “What happens is you [the Provost’s Office] get locked in, and if you don’t need a section or you can actually cancel one section, it just becomes more difficult if you already have a contract in place.”
Bookwala shared that the administration will also need to limit their reliance on visiting faculty positions, which are full-time and typically are appointments for one to three years. In the faculty meeting on Sept. 21, Bookwala stated that about 30 visiting faculty and about 60 adjunct faculty are hired every year. This garners a total cost approaching $3 million, and adjusting these positions can help to reduce budgetary pressures.
This decision affects all disciplines across Gettysburg College.
Milingo shared her belief that there were more questions about this change than answers.
“Departments are crunching numbers, but getting rid of the non-tenure track teaching faculty and increasing the teaching load of the remaining faculty will still not make up for the shortfall in staffing in all departments,” Milingo said. “We’re not sure where the Provost intends to land with all of this as there are currently more questions than answers.”
Director of Hatter Planetarium and Laboratory Instructor II in the Physics Department Ian R. Clarke shared his hope to continue working at the College despite the proposed decisions: “…I have enjoyed my 32 years of teaching at Gettysburg College and do hope I can continue in the future, though recent statements from the administration have cast doubt on how likely that is.”
Adjunct instructor in interdisciplinary studies Matt Greene gave his thoughts on the adjustments to adjunct faculty appointments.
“The layoffs of part-time faculty–and let’s be clear, they are layoffs, no matter the rhetoric–will cause dramatic harm to the student experience beginning next semester,” Greene said. “These cuts mean that necessary courses are being cut, or that we are having to ‘double dip,’ making existing electives or courses intended for majors now also cover general education requirements.”
Professor of English and Graeff Chair Christopher Fee explained that adjunct faculty relieve staffing pressure in the English Department by helping to teach courses that satisfy college-wide curricular requirements, such as first-year writing. Fee stated that if adjunct faculty were released, full-time members of the department would have to give up staffing sections for the major to staff curricular requirements.
“I don’t doubt that there are financial challenges that colleges must face with hard decisions, but this one, if implemented, promises to cause long-term damage to the core of our major and thus will actively disadvantage our students at the same time that it throws on the ash-heap individuals who have committed themselves to Gettysburg College and its students,” Fee said.
Fee also shared his perspective on adjunct faculty members and the value he believes they hold at the College.
“Adjunct Faculty at Gettysburg College really do fantastic work and are beloved by our students, who of course don’t generally know or care who has tenure or who is an adjunct. Students just appreciate caring teachers who put in the time and effort to help them succeed,” Fee said.
Chairperson of the English Department Christopher D’Addario recognized the financial constraints that the humanities and the basic sciences are feeling.
“I do think many of the recent or proposed cuts have and will significantly affect the humanities. To be sure, other divisions, and especially our programs in basic science, are also feeling pressures,” D’Addario said. “Both humanities and the basic sciences have been deemed, mostly incorrectly, by our contemporary culture as not immediately practical. As the school, seemingly bowing to those cultural pressures, continues to push for utilitarianism over learning and the liberal arts, the humanities will suffer.”
Proposal to Combine the Language Departments
Bookwala has additionally acknowledged the possibility of the language departments being combined. She said that larger discussions with department chairs and faculty members would take place in the spring semester to workshop the idea.
“The faculty will have agency. We will ask them, ‘Can you come up with a model that works?’ So, that way, we can combine this [language departments] and really, once again, look at how we are using our teaching resources,” Bookwala said.
Chairperson of the Italian Department Lidia HwaSoon Anchisi gave her belief as to why the college is proposing this decision.
“The purported reasoning is that we are one of the few colleges where each foreign language is homed within an independent department and therefore transforming these programs into one of the largest departments on campus simply would be a reasonable move to conform to general trends. And, of course, to save money,” Anchisi said. “But once again, couldn’t the college embrace our unique condition while thinking innovatively about how both to support our programs and still find ways to cut costs?”
Anchisi referenced the Gettysburg Review’s closure and the potential pattern forming at the College that is affecting students in the humanities.
“Shuttering the Review not only directly, negatively impacts professional opportunities connected with it, but it begs the larger question of whether there is a pattern here of decisions that disproportionately affects students pursuing an Arts and Humanities path – such as increasing enrollment caps, merging departments, half credit courses for under-enrolled courses, eliminating part-time positions, and so forth,” Anchisi said.
Student Leadership Meeting
On Oct. 11, an optional student leader meeting was held with Iuliano, Bookwala and Vice President for College Life Anne Ehrlich in order to discuss the College’s financial situation. The administration gave a presentation on the current state of the college and then answered questions from students.
Alfredo Román Jordán ’26 attended this meeting and shared his thoughts.
“The presentation seemed more like an attempt to gaslight students into believing that significant investments were being made in our education, while simultaneously announcing that teaching resources, which greatly impact our education, were being cut,” Román Jordán said. “Additionally, we were presented with little facts and statistics, and the figures we were presented were manipulated to make them look more positive than they were.”
Román Jordán gave his thoughts on the administration’s recent and proposed decisions: “My main concern is that I don’t think the administration is truly championing what makes Gettysburg great. They plan to increase the average class size and the student-to-faculty ratio, and eliminate special programs like the Review.”
Bookwala has stated that course caps would change 100 level courses to be capped at 35 students or more, 200 level courses to be capped at over 25 students and 300 level courses or higher would be capped at 18 or 20 students. She recognized that these numbers would be adjusted for classes which typically have much smaller caps, such as first-year seminars, writing courses and capstones.
Román Jordán is a physics major with a minor in mathematics, and he expressed concern with these decisions.
“Provost Bookwala mentioned increasing class sizes and merging lab sections… which will degrade the classroom experience. Especially in STEM, I feel that small classes—and labs, in particular—allow me to ask more questions when I get lost in the material and enable students to collaborate more easily,” Román Jordán said. “I am genuinely afraid that programs like X-SIG will be downsized or eliminated.”
Ehrlich shared that the College will be communicating with students on how to improve the student experience. A survey will be sent to all students to determine what can be changed or reimagined.
“As we hone in on those areas for improvement, we will bring students into discussions so we can hear directly from them about decisions that will directly impact them,” Ehrlich said. “The shape of this work will take time, which I understand can be a bit frustrating, but we are committed to working with students to determine even better ways to ensure their input is heard where it needs to be heard.”
Román Jordán expressed a desire for the student body to be made aware of the administration’s future decisions: “Students want to learn about the alterations being made to our current situation. We desire information about additional reductions and, given the removal of the Review, sense that more will be taken from our student experience.”
Editor’s Note: The author of this article served as an intern for the Gettysburg Review last spring semester.
This article originally appeared on pages 12 to 15 of the No. 2 October 2023 edition of The Gettysburgian’s magazine.