Q&A about faculty cuts still leaves uncertainties


Photo by Zoe Seiler/The Simpsonian

by Zoe Seiler, News Editor

President Jay Simmons, along with Board of Trustees Chairman Terry Lillis and members of the president’s cabinet, hosted the first of two question and answer sessions at 3 p.m. on Tuesday. They gave students the opportunity to ask about the future of certain academic departments given the recent round of faculty reductions.

“I’ll be the first to admit, we have not communicated perfectly,” Simmons said during the session. “I’ll own that one. That’s why we’re trying to do this, answer those questions to get that information out there.”

Simmons began the session by responding to some of the student demands presented at a student demonstration on Oct. 19 in the Kent Atrium.

One demand was for the faculty meeting minutes to be made available to students.

Students have access to these minutes on SC Connect under the new tab “Faculty Governance Documents and Archives,” according to Simmons. This tab is underneath the “My actions” menu.

Students can also find information about last year’s program prioritization and information from the administration on SC Connect on the right-hand side under the tab titled “Program Prioritization.”

Another demand Simmons responded to was the desire for more student and faculty representation at board of trustees meetings.

“There are a number of faculty members at every board of trustees meeting,” Simmons said. “We have elected committee chairs for most of the major faculty committees that routinely attend board of trustee meetings. About two years ago now, we asked the elected leadership of the employee advisory council, which represents all of the faculty members at the college to begin attending board meetings.”

Simmons explained the 15-to-1, full-time student to full-time faculty ratio has been the college’s target ratio in past years but didn’t offer new information about it.

Students also asked about how they can find out how the school is spending the money paid from tuition and fees.

Simmons said this information can be found on the college’s form 990, which is the federal tax form the college files as a nonprofit organization. This can be found through a Google search of “Simpson College form 990.”

Many students in attendance asked about the future of some programs such as graphic design, world languages, physics and political science. Simmons and Dean Kent Eaton said there are still uncertainties about the future of these areas.

Junior Angela Eppens, a German major, asked about the future of the world language department and when the administration plans to communicate to these students about finishing their degrees.

Eaton said this has not been done with the French and German students because the department can appeal the decision.

“Part of the difficulty here is we have this appeals process to go through, and it’s a little premature on our part to sit down with every student that is affected by their department being eliminated and go through a plan student by student,” Eaton said during the session. “But we are having those conversations so when we know it’s official that the department is being shut down, we can rush in and be ready to assure everyone there is a clear plan set out.”

Senior graphic design major Sam McCauley asked about the future of the graphic design program and how that area of study will continue to be offered with one professor and no art department.

“We’re still looking at what some of the options might be for that program and again don’t have all the details on that matter yet,” Simmons said. “In fact, I’ve been in conversation with Dean Eaton and others just today about what that might look like. And we’re hoping to have more information out about that to you guys hopefully in the next week or 10 days.”

Eaton also said the administration is working to find a solution to be able to offer all of the physics classes. Simmons added that the college is considering potential options for the costume and technical design roles in the theatre department.

Part of the process of deciding what cuts to make was determined by student interest decreasing in certain areas, Simmons explained.

“Some of the changes we’re making are because you guys are not majoring in those areas as a campus as a whole,” he said. “We had no majors graduate from the college last year in German or French. That’s a pretty strong indication of interest among our students about what they want to do.”

The administration is offering another question and answer session at 8:30 a.m. on Thursday in the Jordan Lecture Hall.

“Sessions like these are to try to keep communication going,” Simmons said. “Also trying to make sure that we’re paying attention to what you guys are telling us. And trying to respond to that list that was presented on the petition that was given to us on Oct. 19 and responding to them.”