Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Everything Has Changed

We faculty folks were protected a bit from the budget fallout this fall, because courses had been long scheduled and students signed up for courses before the worst came down on us.  About half of our adjuncts in our department were laid off, but the chair and dean jiggered things to make the first year writing courses survive with relatively small enrollments (20 for each) though there are fewer sections.* 

We lit (broadly defined) folks just voted to change what our majors need to graduate, loosening up the breadth requirements considerably.  This follows the news that we'll be offering only 8 upper level lit courses a term; instead, most of us will be teaching general ed courses, and we'll up the enrollment caps a bit, and that's how we'll survive as a department.  At least, that's the hope.  With our numbers, it means we'll each teach about one upper level course a year, three lower level, and two first year writing.  (In the past, most of us taught one upper, one lower, and one writing every semester, for an 11 credit load.)  The talk is that we're going to rotate based on faculty rather than period.

For me, it means I'll probably never teach Chaucer again, because I can't see choosing that over an early modern course for every other year.  And I can't see teaching it well if I do it only every fourth year.

We have four people (for now, one is nearing retirement) who teach lit before 1800 (roughly) on either side of the Atlantic, and 11 who teach lit after 1800, all but one mostly Americanists, mostly 20th century, with fairly strong representation of folks who teach ethnic literatures.  As a result, there will be semesters when, if the one retires, there will be no earlier lit taught at the upper levels.  There will likely be semesters when three out of four courses are 20th century American lit.

We hired because we assumed things would stay sort of the same, and we were wrong.  So our fairly strong representation in ethnic literatures is great in that students will have opportunities to learn some great literature, but makes the 20th century feel a bit overloaded.

*It was some very creative, and not unreasonable jiggering, truth be told.  I've seen some folks across campus come up with very creative solutions.  A bunch of general ed type courses are being offered through our extension arm; they look the same to our resident students, but they're paid for differently.  It takes money from the college because there's some tuition that goes to the extension arm, so the college doesn't like it.  But the college wants the courses taught for the big general ed needs, and the college doesn't want to pay instructors (often adjuncts) to teach them, and the departments/programs haven't been allowed to hire tenure track folks to teach them and the major/minor courses, so the tenure line folks are mostly teaching courses for majors/minors. 

What the college really wants is for the tenure line people to teach big gen eds, and for the small majors/minors to disappear.  Some of those small majors/minors are exactly the ones you think: those based on ethnic, gender, sexuality.  Others, not quite what you'd think. 

1 comment:

  1. I think a lot of administrators would like to preside over STEM institutes with a service-only humanities/social sciences division (with maybe a few exceptions for especially-popular and broad-ranging h/ss majors, e.g. communications and psychology). I also suspect that these things are, to some extent, cyclical, and that schools that actually achieve that aim will lose some (but probably only some) students when humanities and social sciences come (somewhat more) back in vogue.

    In the meantime, the sort of situation you describe (including the badly-skewed period/geography divisions, born out of entirely good intentions and the demographics of what specialties were most likely to be hired when) is going to become increasingly common. I suppose another approach might be to keep the time-distribution requirements, and form some sort of online consortium so that students could take a class at whatever school was offering it the semester they needed it. But that's a lot of work, and coordination, and administrators don't much like the idea of online classes that would allow their students to register elsewhere (as opposed to vice versa).