Open Letter: Hutton House Advisory Board

Open Letter: Hutton House Advisory Board

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Dear Dean (Rita) Langdon,

We are writing to inform you that we will not be attending the Hutton House Advisory Board meeting scheduled for December 5th. We object to the many actions which have been taken with regard to Hutton House over the past seven weeks and to the fact that there has been no communication with us about them.

The minutes of the Advisory Board meeting of September 21st are incomplete and exclude many important issues raised at that meeting. We can attend another Advisory Board meeting only if we have assurance that the minutes of that meeting and all future meetings accurately reflect our discussions. We have numerous serious concerns and wish them to be on the record.

Attached herewith is a copy of our letter to the LIU Board of Trustees dated October 22nd about Hutton House. To date we have received no response. This lack of communication with the members of our Advisory Board is unprofessional to say the least. As persons who have given hundreds of hours of volunteer service and thousands of dollars of contributions we have earned the right to a more respectful hearing of our very substantial concerns. To date we have been completely ignored.

There have been numerous changes to the Hutton House Lectures offerings for the Winter 2019 semester without consultation with the Advisory Board. Please note that the By-Laws state that the mission of the Advisory Board includes

  1. serving the intellectual interests of mature individuals who wish to enjoy university level courses in the fields of liberal arts and sciences
  2. advising the Director about curriculum planning and the selection of lecturers

Many of the courses and lecturers listed for Winter 2019 are not in the fields of liberal arts and sciences nor have the lecturers or their subjects been discussed by the Advisory Board. Imagine our surprise when we saw our names attached to this course listing as if we had approved these. In fact, we were never consulted.

We have no objection to a School of Professional Studies being developed at LIU Post. What we do not understand is why the Hutton House Lectures needs to be disemboweled in order for this to happen. Why can’t professional courses and programs be developed in a new unit? Are the other components of the SPS like the Program for Gifted Youth or the Global Institute being radically altered? Have their directors been terminated?

Had we been consulted, we could have told you that the students attracted to and nurtured by the Hutton House Lectures do not have any expectation of professional study. Rather they are interested in the delight and rewards of the liberal arts and life-long learning. Many are retired professionals who are now reaching beyond their work-life experiences to enrich themselves with the diversity of material that has been developed under Dr. Sato’s leadership of 23 years. Among the goals cited in recently distributed PR materials you mention “building upon Hutton House’s solid foundation by expanding programming to create a nationally recognized initiative”. Dr. Sato was Hutton House’s solid foundation and the program has indeed already received national recognition and awards.

Dr. Sato developed a cadre of gifted lecturers whose loyal followers clamored to register for their classes each semester. For years requests for additional space, funding, and staffing have gone unheeded and resulted in the most popular classes having waiting lists for seats. Now suddenly there is funding for weekly full color mailers, increased salaries, and additional high-ranking administrators for HH.

The uproar on campus from students, faculty and administrators about Dr. Sato’s abrupt termination illustrates the high regard in which she is held. Dr. Sato made Hutton House a resource where people felt welcome to participate and contribute. She connected it to the college and the community. Her warmth and intelligence permeated the program. We cannot overstate our objection to her ouster nor how inappropriate we feel was the manner in which it was done. We have lost a unique and talented leader. In addition, many fine lecturers and students have left the program to protest her firing. Perhaps you have seen the letters to local papers and to the Trustees objecting to her termination.

In closing, we wish to go on the record as being concerned about the status of the endowed scholarship we have funded and give each year and also of the rooms in Lorber Hall which were renovated with contributions from HH students. For people to continue to support LIU Post and Hutton House, we need to be transparent and respectful about these donations.

We know that plans for a School of Professional Studies must have been in the works for some time. Although you attended our June meeting and both you and Denise Dick attended our September meeting, we were kept in the dark about the changes to the basic mission of the Hutton House Lectures that were being planned. Furthermore, we were completely blindsided by the dismissal of our beloved Director with whom some of us have worked closely for decades.

The trust between the University and the Advisory Board has been broken by these actions. We await your reply to this communication informing us about future plans to rebuild this trust and restore Hutton House to it’s former award-winning glory.

Very truly yours,

Members of the Hutton House Advisory Board

Robert Riedy, Chair
Barbara Adelhardt
Judith Chapman

Dede Cline
Roger Cline
George Haralampoudis

Susan Shenker
Anne Stokvis
Anita Trost

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