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What has happened to the Chinese program over the past four years is a solidly documented case of University administrators, particularly at the deans’ level in the College of Liberal Arts, acting to undermine the core values of administrative integrity and the academic standards of the University.
To University administration, the number of faculty required seems only contingent upon the number of undergraduate majors. How does the College plan to staff the two-track (Chinese literatures and linguistics) Ph.D. and M.A. degree programs with a revolving door of nine-month grad students who have completed all but their dissertations? This current tactic is exhausting the program’s two permanent faculty members and is destroying their research, publication and health.
According to a 1994 memo from CLA Dean Reed, the addition of two permanent faculty to the Chinese program was required to rebuild a unit “that has suffered drastic losses of faculty.”
In January 1995, the college faced retrenchments. Seven faculty searches out of 28 were canceled in the college. Three of the seven searches cancelled were from East Asian Languages, Literatures and Linguistics, a cut 300 percent greater than that faced by other programs within CLA. Both of the positions given to the Chinese program were cancelled–a cut of 50 percent of total faculty.
In fall 1995, CLA submitted two proposals to the central administration for one Social Sciences Strategic Initiative Pool grant, and one Humanities SIP grant. After the spring cutting of faculty searches, EALLL succeeded in obtaining SIP committee approval for three faculty positions in Chinese and Japanese. However, instead of immediately beginning a search for these desperately needed faculty positions, the deans postponed the dispensation of the SIP money from 1997 to 1999.
In the fall of 1996, CLA Dean Steven J. Rosenstone ordered that the Chinese program conduct a self-study one year in advance of the originally planned date of 1997-1998. Chinese program faculty and students were told that its SIP positions would not be released until the review of the Chinese program had been completed, as it was college policy not to authorize searches while an external review was being conducted. Should the review so recommend, two faculty positions would be advertised by September 1997. Meanwhile, the two other programs being reviewed at the same time were allowed to search for new faculty, hiring three.
The final report of the external review was submitted to CLA administration on June 30, 1997. Among its conclusions were the following:
ù “The most serious problem with the Chinese Program is the shortage and instability of its faculty. UM cannot afford to waste any time in addressing this problem.”
ù “We see the minimum number of faculty as four in tenured or tenure-track lines plus two teaching specialists.”
ù “No other graduate program in Chinese places such tremendous demands on their students’ time as does the UM program … they [are] required to teach excessive amounts because of the shortage of faculty (we feel strongly that the responsibility for the undergraduate language program should rest on the faculty, not on graduate TAs)”
ù “Despite the enormous challenges facing them, the China faculty in EALLL have been running a quality language and literature program for UM. They accomplish this by sheer fortitude, sense of pride, and sense of dedication to the educational mission of their program. It goes without saying that nobody can expect them to continue in this fashion for much longer. At a time when China is asserting itself to become a superpower in the political arena of the world and when many industrial nations see their future as intimately related to trade and cooperation with China, it is unwise for a great university like this not to invest in Chinese studies … We urge UM administration to … start assisting colleagues in EALLL to rebuild its Chinese Program to its former excellence.”
Despite these recommendations, the promised search was not allowed. In October 1997, four graduate students met with Rosenstone to again discuss the faculty crisis in the Chinese program. Rosenstone justified his broken promise, claiming that funding for one of the faculty positions had “disappeared.” A follow-up meeting with Provost Robert Bruininks to further investigate the mysterious disappearance has yet to yield any conclusions.
Desperate to find a permanent solution to the crisis, students met repeatedly with administration. Rosenstone, Dean Waltner, and various other administrators presented their solution — they would allow the hiring of the new faculty if all of our current professors would retire. Their concern seems not to be to provide the faculty needed for the student’s education, but to weed out dedicated faculty. When asked by students what further action had been taken to resolve the crisis, Rosenstone responded that nothing was being done.
With this type of administrative response, what else can students do but take the fight for their education into their own hands?
Senior Ben Baker and graduate students Alexei Ditter and Benjamin Ridgway are students in the Chinese program.