Letter to the Editor: Re: Letter to Faculty

In response to News Editor Chris Hankin’s opinion piece “Letter to Faculty,” published Oct. 26 in The Wire.

Dana Burgess, Classics Department Chair and Charles E. and Margery B. Anderson Endowed Professor of Humanities

In response to News Editor Chris Hankin’s opinion pieceLetter to Faculty,” published Oct. 26 in The Wire.

The Whitman faculty under the current administration is somewhat like the Republican Senate under Trump; neither can openly say what they think for fear of damaging progress toward their goals. Chris Hankin’s thoughtful letter to the faculty assumes, incorrectly, that faculty members remain silent about administrative policies because of personal reasons, especially fear of losing employment. For tenured faculty members, no such fear exists. But both tenured and non-tenured members have policy ambitions. Perhaps we are members of a department threatened with diminution or elimination. Perhaps we administer non-curricular programs that depend upon support from the administration. Perhaps we are working to develop other programs that we believe will be beneficial.  In all cases, we might not be able to afford administrative hostility.

During the last 30 years, power has been shifting from the faculty to the administration, but that shift has recently accelerated sharply. So members of the faculty are increasingly dependent upon administrative goodwill. Whitman isn’t the only institution of higher education experiencing a shift of power; this is a national trend. Faculty at many American institutions are now pitted against their administrations, with the faculty struggling to educate, and with administrations struggling to contain costs and operate the institutions like businesses. A certain tension between these two challenges may explain some of the antagonism between faculty and administration.

As for journalism at Whitman, bravo for The Wire, and bravo for independent student journalism!  No, members of the faculty might not give you that quotation you long for, but that’s not so different from professional journalism. Maybe you can get some members of the faculty to speak without attribution. Then you might be able to pursue investigative journalism to illuminate the tensions operating at the College.