I am writing a short letter to you to register my concerns about the AdPrep process. I was a signatory for a larger letter from my department, but here I want to focus my concern about the upcoming lay-offs or reorganization of non-academic staff in the Faculty of Arts. I do not believe that laying-off staff is anything like a longterm solution to the problems that beset the Faculty. If staff are either not part of department culture or are simply not there to do their jobs, I believe that academic staff will be asked to take up aspects of these positions.
My partner works in the British academic system, and that is precisely what happened a decade ago. Non-academic staff positions were cut, and academic staff were asked to do their own jobs in addition to administrative work ranging from student service jobs (welfare, non-academic placements, etc.) to admissions. The result has been the near-breakdown of student services in most British universities, skyrocketing costs for administration, faculty burn-out and now, severe government cuts which have resulted in rising costs to students and the anticipated closure of many smaller institutions. Many functions have been centralised, resulting in an almost total loss of morale in departments. Academic faculty joined other public sector workers in a nation-wide strike two weeks ago to protest this among other issues.
I don’t believe that things could get this bad for our Faculty, but I do think that getting rid of the people at the department level who are our first point of contact with students and the general public, who help faculty to teaching and do research and who are experts at dealing with the ever-increasing bureaucracy at our university would put us on a road that I suspect we do not want to travel down.
What to do? Since as an ordinary faculty member I’m not privy to budget information and do not know how our faculty really spends its money, my solution is sketchy at best. But I think that it’s worth considering all the same. We have a lot of academic staff who qualify for retirement and have not taken it. Some of these faculty members draw considerable salaries. I would therefore call for you to ask the central administration to reinstall bridging benefits and make that part of an offer (along with perks like offices and library cards) for immediate retirement. I understand that the last offer like this did not meet with success, but I think that was because bridging benefits were not offered. An offer like this has to be tempting, and that does mean some short-term expenditure. But the long term savings would be far greater, and it would mean that non-academic staff are not laid-off.
I am very fortunate to work with some of the best non-academic staff anywhere in the university. I am very distressed to see them endure months of uncertainty, even as they continue to their jobs well. I have seen them become very stressed because of the AdPrep interview process. Frankly, I don’t believe that I could do my own job without them, and a department without them is not going to be a good place to work. And so, I earnestly entreat you to think about my suggestion and any others in order to save these people from job-loss or a reorganization they do not want.
Thank you for listening.
Professor, English and Film Studies