I was sitting in the newsroom when I heard something you’re all probably aware of: 56 staff members had been let go from DePauw. I’ve sat and reflected on this notion for the past week or so now, and I’ve come to the glaring conclusion that the DePauw administration and the Board of Trustees is grossly out of tune with the needs and desires of the student body.
One of the biggest problems with higher education in the United States today is the lack of accountability. When combined with the lack of money being spent to send middle-class and poor students to college, it creates graduation rates of less than 50 percent at many colleges, according to The New York Times.
Word of mouth says that we compared ourselves to similar universities and cut positions those universities didn’t have. Do you see the glaring problem with that? There are so many programs and positions that are unique to DePauw; of course there wouldn’t be staff members with those positions at other universities. You can’t just slash those positions without taking that into consideration. When asked at the October faculty meeting, Bob Leonard, vice president of finance, responded that no one should be worried about faculty layoffs, but that it was a possibility in the future. In an email from President McCoy the day after, it said: “To be clear, there are no plans to cut position and no decisions have been made in that regard.” Now, five months later, we see a massive cut like this. Is it really possible to decide the fates of so many people in that amount of time?
In a New York Times article from April 2014, Dr. Daniel F. Chambliss, an organizational sociologist at Hamilton College said, “What really matters in college is who meets whom, and when. It’s the people, not the programs, that make a difference.” The article goes on to describe several other facets of Chambliss’ studies at Hamilton College, a college very similar to DePauw in size and environment. He even says the following when asked what colleges do that don’t improve student experiences:
“Strategic plans. I used to be so into those mission statements and goals…But I’ve never seen one that actually helped. The president of one highly ranked liberal arts college told me, in the middle of his big campaign, that he knew it wouldn’t help the education. When I asked why they were doing it, he said the trustees wanted something grand and millennial. I guess presidents have to keep their jobs too.”
When I was going through my application process for DePauw, I remember how much small class sizes and personal relationships were stressed throughout. These past two years have reinforced this: DePauw isn’t about fancy buildings or state-of-the-art dining halls, it’s about the people who live and work here. My day wouldn’t be the same without chatting with Marilyn in the PCCM or getting my coffee from Angie at Café Allegro. My professors who have personally reached out to me when I’m not doing well, the ones who have shown that they care on an individual level— that’s what makes DePauw great. When you start to cut out the people that make campus special, you lose an integral part of the DePauw experience.