Professors care about Whitman, so why doesn’t the administration care about them?

Hailey Livingston, Columnist

Around this time last year, Whitman released the Financial Sustainability Review (FSR), stoking student and alumni outrage. To give a brief summary, the FSR cut money from the arts and humanities programs as well as available student scholarships. Administrators claimed the cuts worked in the college’s long-term interests in order to address a looming demographic decline. However, the cuts seemed to be unnecessarily targeted at professors and already-vulnerable departments. 

Professors, students and parents were very disheartened by this. Our liberal arts institution that we pay the big bucks for was clearly prioritizing certain majors and activities over others.

Isn’t the beauty of a liberal arts school its well-roundedness?

Now we’re here, a year after the FSR, and somehow we’ve been given more data that makes the Whitman administration look even worse. February 11, 2022, Dr. Howard Bunsis, Professor of Accounting at Eastern Michigan University conducted an external analysis of Whitman’s endowment and financial standing at the request of the Whitman chapter of the American Association of University Professors. 

If we’re looking at this new review from a purely monetary standpoint, Whitman is doing amazing! From 2020 to 2021, the Whitman endowment (money a college puts away to pay professors, to give scholarships, fund programs, etc.) increased by roughly 300 million dollars. 

You read that right. By some immoral happenstance, COVID-19 and all, Whitman managed to go from $654 million in 2020 to $934 million in 2021. That’s a lot of money, more money than I would even know where to begin with distributing. 

I’m not a finance girl. I am not an Econ major. That said, I know how numbers work. I know that accumulating 300 million dollars in a year is a pretty good thing. So why were professors’ salaries cut? 

The FSR outside review states, that “the cuts that were made in 2021 fell most heavily on instruction, and most lightly on administration” and “the administration will claim that when they made the decision to cut in 2020, there was tremendous uncertainty. However, their first move was to cut mostly instruction personnel costs.”

Let’s take a walk down memory lane; it’s time to go back to March 2020. Our lives were filled with more uncertainty than ever before. We were sent home from school and put into distance learning. It was tough for students, but we often forget to focus on how hard it was for professors. They deserve some props. They learned how to move their classes to an online format in a matter of days all while still expressing concern for the pandemic. 

Their salaries were the first to go. 

It’s disgusting, and as someone that cares about their professors, it makes me mad. I’m sure COVID-19 was beyond stressful for the administration as well. I can’t imagine trying to decide how to support a network of students, professors, and all college staff during such “unprecedented times.” That said, the administration did not cut their own salaries. 

Well, maybe it’s rash to say that the administration didn’t cut their own salaries, but there’s no data whatsoever on what they did with their own funds: “Since 2017, Whitman has seen a dramatic drop in the salaries of its faculty… No comparable data about staff salaries (not in administrative positions) are available.”

So it’s suspicious, to say the least.

Our professors continue to work to make our Whitman experience the best it can be. They clearly care about us, so why doesn’t the administration care about them?

The FSR review released on Feb. 11, 2022 was not paid for with endowment money, nor was it encouraged by the administration. Because this review was paid for privately, the administration could not intervene. And what did we find? Administrators cutting funding to professors and our programs, but not a piece of information on their salaries. 

Students, alumni, supportive parents—we should be upset for our professors. Throughout the pandemic, they’ve gone out of their way to support us all while facing salary cuts. Whitman made 300 million dollars, covered it up, and continued to cut money from the people that make the price tag worth it. 

Admin, are you embarrassed yet?