From: Whittier Chapter AAUP <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Date: On Friday, February 3rd, 2023 at 1:03 PM
Subject: WCAAUP Response
To: email@example.com <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Dear Save Whittier,
Please see the attached response and supporting documents. For follow up, feel free to email this general wcaaup email or any individual faculty on the executive council.
WCAAUP Executive Council
Anne Sebanc, President WCAAUP
Jennifer Holmes, Vice President WCAAUP
Sara Angevine, Secretary/Treasurer WCAAUP Serkan Zorba, At-Large Representative WCAAUP
Melanie Householder, At-Large Representative WCAAUP
Gina Jordan, At-Large Representative WCAAUP
Doreen O’Connor-Gomez, At-Large Representative WCAAUP
Dan Duran, At-Large Emeriti Representative WCAAUP
February 3, 2023
Dear Whittier College Friends,
The Whittier Chapter of the American Association of University Professors (WCAAUP) read your letter and discussed your questions at a recent meeting. We appreciate your letter: for recognizing the many challenges currently facing Whittier College and for continuing to press for transparent dialogue and accountability around these concerns. We believe your questions deserve an official response from the faculty. Although we do not represent the full faculty, we hope this letter clarifies how many of us currently feel. At the time of writing this letter, WCAAUP has 34 faculty members and we are still growing.(1) We are aligned with the points raised in the January 24, 2023, Save Whittier letter. Academic freedom for faculty and students is imperative for the success of institutions of higher education and society.
The questions you ask have been circulating among the faculty body for some time. In Spring 2022, faculty documented concerns via a survey(2) conducted by the Faculty Affairs Committee (FAC, a subcommittee of the faculty) where 82 faculty participated, roughly 87% of the approximate 94 full-time faculty.(3) To respond to one of your direct questions, approximately 40 percent of the respondents indicated that they were seeking employment elsewhere. Faculty’s general concerns included:
● Retirement contribution by the College not being restored (matching was 8.25% in 2019 and 0% in 2020-2023)(4)
● Low salaries compared to peer institutions
● Not feeling valued by the administration
● Not enough support for the academic mission
● Lack of community on campus
● Low faculty and staff morale
These results were shared directly with VPAA sal johnston and President Oubré at the last faculty meeting, held in person on May 23, 2022. FAC asked them to share the results with the Board of Trustees (BoT) and to specifically respond to our concerns. Faculty are not aware of any follow-up by the administration or BoT on these items although faculty and staff did get a 2% retroactive raise in October. WASC’s recommendations(5) made it clear that administrators should seek information on morale and underlying causes of problems from faculty and staff perspectives. Among other requests, WCAAUP recommends administrative action remedying these critical sustainability issues.
We recognize that while many negative events have occurred in the past few years, Whittier College has also experienced positive events. Faculty continue to love our students and build authentic relationships with them in our classes. Multiple faculty and staff have received grants from foundations, and along with the Scott funds (and other resources) have continued to support existing, and create new diverse, equitable and inclusive activities. Even without grants and with restricted budgets, faculty continue to yield exemplary accomplishments in teaching, advising, service, and research. However, department funding for academic programs has been almost entirely eliminated and we only have one operating Faculty House. Since 2020, our faculty body has decreased from 94 to 74, and tenure-track lines are not being approved even years after being vacated. Four departments are currently searching for Rustin fellows. New faculty provide hope for the future and keep the institution invested in meaningful change and innovation.
We are troubled that diversity of the student body is actually declining and many faculty and staff have expressed concern that we will lose our MSI and HSI status which have long been strengths of the College. The cancellations of football, golf and men’s lacrosse have cast a shadow on many of the other events on campus this year. Most faculty are concerned about the decision making process, the timing, and communication with all constituents, as well as the admissions and retention consequences. In December 2022, WCAAUP responded to this situation with a letter of solidarity with students. We all have individual students who did not return for the Spring, or have students currently applying to transfer to other institutions. Questions posed by the students at the Student Town Hall should be answered. Faculty advisors have been asked by student athletes where their tuition money will go in light of the recent program eliminations. We are unable to answer these and other questions because these fiscal plans have not been shared with us. Faculty representatives (supposed to be included as stated in our Faculty Handbook) have been locked out of all budget conversations and decisions. The BoT must lead Whittier College in transparent processes and the best way to do that is with the inclusion of faculty, staff and students elected by those constituents as full voting Board members.(6) Shared governance is one of the central tenets of AAUP precisely because this is what creates a successful academic institution where faculty, staff, and students thrive.
Institutions are continually evolving, and Whittier College is no exception, having made many changes over the years. Even as Whittier College evolves, faculty believe future generations of diverse Whittier College students deserve an education that, though different, is equally high-quality and relevant. It is difficult for faculty and staff to provide a bridge between the past and the future because we are not fully informed, consulted, or aware of the President’s and BoT’s strategic planning or institutional vision. Though many of us participated in WASC and read strategic planning documents, none of those discussed revisiting how many sports and teams we could support. It is difficult to answer the questions alumni and students pose to us at this time. We support faculty-wide discussion of the issues raised in the letter, including surveys led by faculty assessing current confidence in the administration and the BoT’s oversight. True shared governance and respect for all constituencies including alumni, students, staff and faculty could help us rebuild trust and confidence that the academic mission of Whittier College has a long future.
Written and endorsed by WCAAUP Executive Council
(1) We have been told there are 74 full time faculty at the college which would make WCAAUP 46% of faculty but we think this includes faculty on 1-2 year leaves.
(2) See attached FAC.Spring2022.FacultySurvey.pdf
(3) We encouraged faculty on leave and sabbatical to complete the survey and cannot confirm how many faculty we had last year at the time of the survey.
(4) See attached FAC_salaries_ipeds_22.pdf
(5) See WASC recommendations #4 and #6: https://www.whittier.edu/sites/default/files/media/about/accreditation/CAL_220711_Whittier_TPR.pdf