Faculty “right-sizing” unsigned editorial

“The only thing constant is change”: The saying rings true as Dillard continues to recover four years post-Katrina. The latest step was the announcement Monday by Dr. David Taylor, provost and vice chancellor for academic affairs, that the university will be “right-sizing” faculty.

Unlike other area universities, Dillard tried to keep its faculty intact post-Katrina. The thinking was the university would bounce back quickly. About 2,100 students were enrolled in 2005. Now we have less than 900. Taylor says the 112 current faculty would support a student population of 1,500 to 1,700 students.

The administration hopes its 16-month-old recruiting plan will translate into 1,000 students in the fall; a 110 percent increase in applications has been noted already. In the meantime, however, Dillard must cut 33-45 faculty members.

As the Courtbouillon went to press, the administration was preparing to send letters to all faculty. Some will receive contracts, others “letters of non-renewal.” First to go: remaining adjuncts, non-tenured faculty and then tenured faculty (although tenured faculty probably will have a reprieve through 2009 since tenured faculty should be notified by Dec. 15 of the preceding year.) The provost said consideration also will be given to which faculty best supports core mission and programming. Taylor says he expects “right-sizing” to continue over the next 18 months.

The announcement is somber news, not only for faculty, but current and prospective students and for alumni. The provost, who must deal with a difficult problem not of his own making (in a way, like Barack Obama), says decisions will be made with “humanity” and in the best interests of Dillard and its students.

What can students do? Dr. Toya Barnes-Teamer, vice president for student success, said in January that students can help Dillard recover by pre-registering for classes for an accurate count; maintaining “appropriate” grade-point averages and course loads; volunteering to assist with recruitment; and participating in extracurricular activities for a vibrant campus life.

What can alumni do? Continue to support Dillard. The provost noted Dillard has an endowment of $39 million, unlike Spelman College with $300 million and Howard University with $500 million. While all the new construction on campus is essentially paid for, money matters in all other areas of DU operation.

“This, too, shall pass,” says the Bible. When all is said and done and everyone has performed his or her role, we look forward to Dillard being the “right-sized” powerhouse of old, succeeding at its mission of accepting students where they are and taking them where they need to be.