Professor Nobody

The following letter was submitted to us anonymously. We suspect that the sentiments expressed here are common on The Hill.

IN all of my years in academia, this school year at Shorter has been the most emotionally difficult, mentally challenging and physically exhausting. I say this not because I have frustrating students, a hectic schedule or mounds of paperwork – but because my colleagues, my students and the staff that supports us has been in “survival mode” since the upheaval caused by the adoption and impending threats of the Personal Lifestyle Statements.

There seem to be four titles to describe both my colleagues and students:  “Hoping for Change,” “Staying Regardless,” “Pursuing the Back-Up Plan” and “Seizing the Better Opportunity.” While these four titles are common to every faculty and student towards the end of the semester, the numbers at Shorter are staggering. Every day, someone posts the name of another faculty or staff member who has announced their resignation and new appointment. Every day, another student comes to me and tells me about their roommate or sorority sister who has just committed to another school. The numbers seem to have increased throughout the last several weeks. There is an air of detachment that is hindering productive class time, lunchtime banter and even the students’ effort and attention to grades. Emotional tensions are extremely high as faculty are secretly meeting and students’ parents are calling for recommendation letters, extremely upset about the toll this semester has taken on their sons and daughters.  Knowing that colleagues and students have written emails and personally met with members of the administration only to be left with more doubt, more anger and more confusion is frustrating.

As ridiculous is the fact that every week in my Inbox there is a Wellness announcement for faculty and staff. I wonder if they know WHY my blood pressure is sky high, WHY I am experiencing IBS, WHY my doctor has upped my antacid prescription and most importantly – WHY my doctor is suggesting anti-anxiety medications.  The reason is the university I that I have learned to love – which I am so proud to be a part of – is experiencing changes that affect me emotionally, mentally and physically.  No one from the administration has reached out to me to ask “What can we do to support you during this time of transition?” No one has reached out to me to ask “May I come and give your students some reassurance that they are going to be okay?” No one has reached out to me to say “Your job is not at stake. If you agree to sign these documents we will make sure that your program thrives.” No one has reached out to me to say “Your diligent research, work and talent make you so valuable to our University. We hope you will sign these documents and stay on board.”

I do not find it necessary here to announce which title I have chosen. Just let me say when I was assured that I was doing well in my job, even knowing that Shorter contracts were one-year commitments, I, like many of my colleagues, bought a home in Floyd County. I established my family in this community. We have a church family we love and have close friends in dance programs, sports and local civic organizations. The thought of moving is completely overwhelming: pulling our children from their educational environment and neighborhood to another city or state, asking my spouse to seek another job in this economy, considering trying to sell our house – the home that my spouse and I prayed over, toiled for and have worked to make a haven for our family. To say I am devastated is an understatement. One thing is certain – this entire situation and these documents have made me question trust in authority, my need for religion, my faith in Christianity and my place in higher education. All of these questions are contrary to every assurance I had when I walked into the Chapel on October 24, 2011.

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