At the end of 2018, Drew University cut 56 staff members. As a community we were alarmed by this news, but President Baenninger reassured us that these decisions would improve the quality of student-facing areas and stabilize Drew’s financial situation. The President’s reassurance now rings hollow with the news that Drew has again declined to renew the contract of a key full-time faculty member in the History Department.
Professor Angie Calder has dedicated seven years of her career to Drew. For undergraduates, Calder is an advisor, mentor and instructor in both lower and upper-level classes. In the Caspersen School, she is an advisor, instructor and committee member for MA and Ph.D. students. She also recently served as the interim convener of the History and Culture graduate program, wherein she was a key figure in redesigning the graduate curriculum. Her dedication to Drew students has been recognized with multiple awards and a university news bulletin that described her as a “staple of the history and culture scholarly community.” Calder is clearly a valuable faculty member and an integral component of the Drew community.
GRAPHIC COURTESY OF DREW UNIVERSITY
Without her, the history faculty will be strained to cover required courses, and history majors will lose expert instruction in specialized fields. Students in the media and communications, environmental studies, and women’s and gender studies departments will also suffer. Graduate students will be left without an essential committee member and instructor to fill key course requirements. Beyond these issues, Calder’s situation raises doubts about how much university administration actually considers student’s needs and desires. Through petitions, letters, and consistently excellent student feedback, Calder’s students have repeatedly demonstrated how important she is to their Drew experience.
Although faculty lines and staff wages are funded separately, Drew’s quality of education and student experience appear to be in jeopardy as a result of the ongoing budget issues. This situation foreshadows further faculty cuts and, perhaps, a move in the ethically dubious direction that many other universities favor: replacing full-time faculty with underpaid adjuncts as a cost-saving measure. Furthermore, Drew seems to be conforming to a trend in higher education that devalues the humanities, which is a betrayal of our very institutional character. Prioritized disciplines change over time, but not the importance of “rigorous, independent, and imaginative thought”—qualities enshrined by Drew’s mission, the humanities, and all liberal arts education. Calder pushes students to realize those aspects of the university’s mission and embodies the best that Drew has to offer.
The refusal to renew Calder’s contract is not a reflection of the quality of her work and is a poor thank-you to a faculty member who is dedicated to upholding Drew’s values. Calder deserves better and the Drew community does too.
This article was co-written by students in the College of Liberal Arts and the Graduate School.