volume 40, number 4
Temple UniversityFaculty Herald

Letters to the Editor

Steve Zelnick, Professor of English Literature, College of Liberal Arts

February 17, 2010

After Herald Editorial meetings and the most recent Faculty Senate meeting, it seems that future Temple discussions will all be about the "Budget Crisis." Temple administration has always claimed a budget crisis -- even while the university was expanding and enjoying steady appropriations and increased tuition and enrollments.  Now that business really is bad and likely bad for a long time to come, we have to find out whether Temple can afford to be a University, or whether we will have to settle for being a fund-raising and external fund-gathering machine.

To hear that Dean searches are on hold pending Commonwealth decisions to approve casino gambling is stunning -- almost as much as the news that the Tyler faculty and programs are now stuck with re-paying the mortgage on their new building because they failed to raise sufficient money to pay for it.  The reports of increases in the numbers of large lecture classes, of increased course loads for tenured and tenure track faculty, and of the increase of adjuncts and decrease of NTT faculty -- all this tells us where we are and what is coming.

But there’s more. We have heard that applications are up at prestige institutions in the area but down significantly at Temple. This is surprising. After all, Temple offers a cost-effective package for families that may, in better times, have been enrolling their youngsters out of state or in expensive institutions locally. Perhaps something else is happening. Could it be that families concerned about future prospects of graduates lack confidence in a Temple degree? If this occurs, along with the increasing trend among typical Temple students to do the first two years at a Community College before transferring, we are in a very tight corner. Is this the time to be thinning faculty ranks and increasing class size? Shouldn't we be building prestige undergrad programs and supplying resources to support honors programs worth talking about? Or is building buildings the only building that will save the day for us? 

This concern about the value of what universities offer is becoming a national discussion. Yesterday’s New York Times (02/15/10) reported eroding confidence among the general population in what universities do.  Increasing numbers believe universities are in business and care little for the prospects of their students. An even more sobering discussion (Don Peck, “How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America”) appeared in the March Atlantic Monthly (http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/201003/jobless-america-future). The article maintains that graduates these days are not well prepared for the hardships they will face.  This is especially the case in the less prestigious universities, where degrees are likely to be tickets to nowhere special or even nowhere at all. Much as we hate the Newsweek rankings; poor to middling rankings compromise our students and their futures. I hate to think that our talented students, and we have quite a few, will suffer because Temple does not appear to be all that it often is.

Along with this, there is the faculty governance debacle -- also an old story. Almost 20 years ago, Herb Simons proposed we look at the U. Maryland model, where faculty sit at the table where the real things happen, and where the faculty voice is effectively focused instead of distributed out into myriad "participations" on endless committees of little consequence.

For those who remain in the fight for an informed community -- all good wishes to and appreciation for David, our hard-working and thoughtful editor -- there are real stories still to be told. 

Steve Zelnick

Department of English