By Josh Tolentino
Editor’ Note: Some parts of the pamphlet were not discussed, as we are awaiting an administrative response to publish later this week, per request of Michael Berthel, dean of students.
The authors of the anonymous “Common Sense” pamphlet struck again with a sequel found on campus during the first week of November. It addresses concerns about administration from an angle similar to that of the American Revolution.
The latest “Common Sense” alluded to various news articles from The Pioneer and VIN News Service, specifically an article by Jennifer Fiala. The writers feel that the students are “not the only ones who are questioning our tyrannical Queen (Dr. Cline).” They stated there is a “lack of communication and transparency between faculty and Queen Kimmy’s administration.”
The writers drew a parallel to a situation at Adelphi University in the 1990’s, when then university President Peter Diamandopoulos and the board of trustees were replaced by the NY State Board of Regents. Some of the similarities between these situations are bold, according to Dr. Michael Soupios, professor of political science and president of the faculty union. “It’s not fair to Kim Cline to speculate and draw parallels between her and Diamandopoulos,” he said. “As it stands right now there is no connection at all in terms of their activity.”
The latest “Common Sense” pamphlet alleged that recent decisions of the administration have been motivated by budgetary issues. One of the first things mentioned is “the passing out of 30 death letters to professors,” referring to the dismissal of multiple professors after the spring 2018 semester.
Speculations of the rumored $28 million debt were in the latest pamphlet. In a previous statement, Cline declined the accusations. “In the last five years, our university has gone from $86 million to about $230 million in endowment. We’ve had surpluses every year I’ve been here,” Cline said.
The writers of “Common Sense” question that statement with recent admission figures: “We surmise that there were less than 400 incoming freshmen at Post, but we think it’s closer to mid-300.” The “Common Sense” authors suspect, without proof, that there are actions pertaining to budgetary manipulation. The freshman enrollment in 2018 was 550, according to dashboard figures, but it has been on a steady decline since Cline became president in 2013.
“You really can’t make a budget if you fail to deliver a freshman class here [for] three, four, five years in a row,” Soupios said. “The possibility that there is no budgetary problem is impossible for me to conceive.”
The writers of the pamphlet also wrote about concerns with the number of spring classes that were cut by administration. The article mimicked another event of the American Revolution, calling this latest action the “Friday Night Massacre.” Students have alleged that they needed to enroll in these classes to graduate.
“Not being able to have a choice of when the class is or knowing beforehand when [it] might be is frustrating,” Elizabeth Law, a junior physics and mathematics major, said. Law had the same problems last semester and had to take a graduate class.
The course schedules are created by a software program called Ad Astra that helps predict what students need; however there had been some errors. John Lutz, an English professor and chair of the English, philosophy and foreign languages department, found in his area “17 classes were removed from those schedules.” Lutz said he was not informed in advance of the cuts. “I was not given any opportunity to have a conversation or discussion about which courses were removed,” he said.
When discussing the state of the administration, Lutz said these actions reflect “a lack of transparency and communication.” Lutz attributed professors’ and department heads’ frustrations to the issue that “the administration had not been adequately communicating with the academic units, at least not with the chairs’ level.”
The administration has restored some of these classes, but Lutz still has his concerns. “I am critical of the administration for not providing that transparency and working as best as they can with academic departments to help us use this [Ad Astra software program] as a rational tool,” he said.
The authors of the pamphlets have been critical about the departmental consolidation of several colleges on campus. In some cases, this has been efficient, but the logic of the decisions was, they said, inconsistent. Lutz supported the consolidation of his department with others, but he doesn’t necessarily think the same coherence exists in other areas. One example is the consolidation of the political science, history, economics, and sociology departments. “It doesn’t make much sense for them,” Lutz said. “I can see why they are upset and [I] even support them. In my own area it worked out.”
The effectiveness of consolidations remains to be seen. Soupios described the combined social science departments as mixing apples and oranges. “You’ve taken this thing and thrown in up in the air and now you have a jigsaw puzzle, a lot of these pieces don’t fit,” Soupios said. “For example, you have one social science unit, does that mean you have one personnel committee? For four different departments, how does that work?” he asked. Soupios questioned the sensibility of having a historian judge the academic work of an economist, or an economist judge the work of a political scientist; and all under one personnel committee.
The new pamphlet alluded to a budgetary motivation for the consolidations. “This was all done very spur of the moment and without a lot of planning,” Soupios said.
Concerning budget cuts, Soupios discussed the consequences. “The reason why I get so emotional about this is because what people don’t realize is I spent the whole summer having young faculty members sitting in that chair crying,” he said. “They come back and say things like ‘I got a mortgage, I got children at home, I gotta feed my kids.’ What the hell am I supposed to say?”
The impact of these administrative decisions led to frustrated faculty who feel as though their roles have been undermined. “They (senior administration) hurt people, they hurt families. It’s not like these people (faculty) are reckless and irresponsible; they did do their work and they still get turned away,” Soupios said.
The “Common Sense” pamphlets contain both true and exaggerated statements. “The first casualty in political discourse is truth,” Soupios said. Despite the exaggeration and hyperboles, it appeared to be an effort by students to voice their concerns to the administration.