Faculty layoff updates: Department by department 

By Caleb McGever, Abbey Rodriguez and Candice Stilwell

Whitworth 2024 grad cap in the sunset in Spokane Wash., Wed. May 1, Ben Gallaway/ The Whitworthian

*”The Whitworthian edited this article on May 8, 2024, to reflect AP style changes as well as slight factual inaccuracies.

Following the rumors surrounding the Whitworth University faculty layoffs, the Whitworthian reached out to all department chairs to collect factual information regarding faculty layoffs. The following article provides information from each department that responded. Other departments chose to remain silent on the matter, and their silence was respected. 

Departments are listed in alphabetical order. 

Find more information about the faculty cuts on our website here

Communication Studies Department

The Communication Studies Department will not experience any major changes as a result of the recent faculty layoffs, according to communication studies department chair Dr. Kevin Grieves. Grieves has worked at Whitworth for nearly 10 years and said that his department has been short-staffed for a long time due to previous cuts made. 

“We’ve essentially for a number of years now been really stretched by not being able to [fill positions],” said Grieves. 

The communication studies department also contributes to teaching the shared curriculum. 

Since this department will not face changes based on the faculty cuts, Grieves said he urged people “not to panic too much.” This is a problem which is happening in many universities, and Whitworth is “looking at ways to make things more flexible [for students],” he said.

In order to alleviate those feelings, Grieves suggested meeting with academic advisors. 

“I know it can seem kind of unpredictable and students feel like they’re these forces that they don’t have control over. But we’re really dedicated to helping students navigate through this,” said Grieves.

Education Department

“Education has been affected less than a lot of the areas in arts and sciences,” said Dr. Lisa Laurier, current chair of the education department. However, the education department is still experiencing some changes as a result of the cuts.  

The department is losing two lecturers for the 2024-2025 school year, and another two contracts that are due to be ended within the next year, according to Laurier. Furthermore, the department is “down three regular faculty [positions] that are not being replaced from resignation and retirement,” said Laurier.

She further explained that two personnel from the graduate side of the education program have been reassigned to the undergraduate side due to declining graduate student numbers and the lack of faculty for the undergraduate program.  

With these cuts, the department’s “faculty-to-student ratio for advising is over 60 each,” said. This year’s round of budget cuts in addition to the cuts from previous years means that education students will “continue to struggle to get advising in a timely and thorough manner,” said Laurier. “The majority of [education] courses are not being taught by the regular faculty in the department, both of which do a huge disservice to our students.”

“My heart goes out to my colleagues in all academic areas who are facing layoffs of friends and co-workers in ways that will be felt by the entire community for years to come,” said Laurier in an email statement.  

Engineering Department

Dr. Kamesh Sankaran, chair of the engineering department, has not been impacted by the budget cuts. However, “[this] issue is something that broadly affects us as a community, regardless of which portion of the Whitworth community one is in,” said Sankaran.

Sankaran said that no one person is responsible for the success of an institution, and each person “has a role to play in the body. That means that even those who will no longer be here next year played important roles that will be missed,” said Sankaran. “These [faculty members] are my friends, and when I see this, it’s just one of those gut punches.”

English Department

Dr. Jessica Clements, chair of the English department, said in an email response to The Whitworthian that the English department will be forced to change due to large faculty cuts.  

“The English department employed 5 full-time lecturers, all female-identifying,” in the 2023-2024 academic year who will not be returning next year. These lecturers have historically taught EL 110 (First-Year Composition), EL 211 (Professional Writing) and courses like EL 245 (Intro to Creative Writing) and other critical reading and cultural inquiry courses, explained Clements. 

Eliminating the lecturer positions in the English department will mean that English professors will now be required to teach these 100 and 200-level classes. Clements said that this is “a feat that is statistically impossible” if the English department is going to continue offering “expertise to administrative roles, such as stewarding the University Writing Program, the Composition Commons, Rock & Sling and the Honors Program.” She also said that the non-renewal of retired faculty positions leaves less room for specializations within the department.  

“English has lost more faculty than it has kept in recent years, a reduction that is not commensurate with [their] retention of 70+ department majors as well as 97% efficiency in filling [their] courses,” said Clements.

“This is not the end of the English major at Whitworth or the influence of the English department across campus,” said Clements. “But we will also live with an indelible grief, grief exacerbated by administration’s lack of transparency surrounding the ‘why.’” 

Music Department

Two full-time lecturer and two Track II faculty positions in the music department were affected by the recent budget reductions according to an email sent to music students by Dr. Benjamin Brody, chair of the music department. Brody requested that the faculty names in the email not be shared, as permission was given by them to him for the department email, but not for quotation by The Whitworthian. 

In the email, Brody explained that the budget cuts impacted certain faculty positions to be able to teach fewer classes, but that studio lessons would not be affected.  

Brody also highlighted the great accomplishments of the music department, such as its award-winning music ensembles, its new and popular community choir and upcoming scholarship and recordings produced by faculty.  

Brody also addressed student reactions to the faculty cuts in the email. “From the expressions of love and support in chalk on the sidewalks, to advocating for concerns with administrators, to the encouraging sticky notes and jokes put on faculty doors throughout the music building, your care for our community and especially those most affected is palpable,” wrote Brody.  

“As we continue to experience grief and delight, I am grateful that we don’t do it alone. I don’t know another department at the university that is as mutually encouraging and supportive as ours is. I am glad we are in this together,” wrote Brody.

Theater Department

The Theater department is currently being chaired by an interim, Dr. Erica Salkin, who is also a communications professor and the staff advisor for The Whitworthian. This department has not been affected by the faculty cuts, according to Salkin. 

World Languages and Culture Department

The world languages and culture department is facing a lot of changes in light of the budget cuts. “I think I can pretty confidently say [this department] has been more affected,” said Dr. Jennifer Stafford Brown, chair of the world languages and culture department.

This is partially due to last year’s layoffs, which resulted in the loss of four lecturers in the department. This year they are losing three more Track II faculty members. Despite all these changes, Stafford Brown has made it very clear that students do not need to be worried about not having the credits they need to graduate. 

“That is absolutely never going to be the case. We will always 100 percent of the time make sure that students can graduate on time without ever interrupting that,” said Stafford Brown. “That is our responsibility, and we will live up to it.” 

As a result of staffing changes, students may have to concede having courses taught by a certain professor, but Stafford Brown emphasized that students will be okay.  

“We will make sure that there’s an alternative to that class that still fits into the student’s program evaluation, or we will have some kind of course substitution that also fits into the student’s plan,” said Stafford Brown. 

Stafford Brown recognized potential student anxiety, but again wanted to give the assurance that they will be okay.  

“If the anxiety is ‘I’m not going to get all the classes I need,’ you don’t need to be anxious about that. Whitworth will definitely make that happen on time, for sure. We have to, it’s part of our accreditation,” said Stafford Brown. 

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