In today’s Times Union, author Scott Waldman wrote an article entitled “RPI dumping teacher honored by students.” While perhaps that is how it could be perceived, there’s more to it. The School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences had been hiring professors on essentially “extra” money. When a professor from HASS left RPI, that person’s salary would be returned to the School and could be used for any number of things. What ended up happening most of the time, is that this extra money was used to hire other professors, such as Julie Guttman. This reallocation of “unused” funds occurred year after year. When RPI entered vacancy management as a result of the economic downturn, that money disappeared. The money went elsewhere.
What is terrible is that this wasn’t realized until it was too late. I think it’s too bad that this oversight occurred, and that a more proactive approach to reviewing faculty positions and hiring was not in place. Julie Guttman will be missed. I think that when the students deem a professor “Person of the Year” that that should be taken as a strong vote of support. I would love to hear that the administration had said “we should try harder to keep Prof. Guttman around because clearly she has had an impact on the students,” and as a result of this extra effort, they could renew her contract. Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case at the moment. But the ‘Tute has a few months, maybe they’ll figure out a way.
During this past Pizza with the Cabinet, Dr. Palazzo was asked a question which had to do with this, and what stuck out to me was that he said something to the extent of not being able to believe that one subject matter hinged so critically upon one professor. He felt confident that other faculty would be able to teach as effectively. While this may be the case, undoubtedly it is where Prof. Guttman went above and beyond that made her stick out in students’ minds. I don’t know if that will be replaced as easily.
And as for the TU article? Perhaps the more appropriate title would have been “RPI fails to find a way to keep valued professor.” But that just doesn’t have the same zing to it…