Kolb Letter to Senate
Thank you for the permission to speak. Now that Dr.
Marshall has given you the facts of our case, I'd like to share a more personal
perspective on this university as I came to know it during my years on the
faculty, and as I now fear for its future. I came here in 1999 as a Yankee who fell
in love with
During my eleven years on the faculty, I saw this
university rise to genuine distinction, far greater than our provincial name
let on. People outside
As soon as I learned what was coming, around the first of last June, I filed for retirement. My pension is quite small but my husband, who died nine months before this all happened, left me a little something, so I manage. I wasn't quick enough for the incentive offer last May—that was cut off just before. At the time of that offer I thought I was going on sabbatical. Then Dr. Bourg called to say the sabbatical was off. There were budget cuts in the offing, she said, and it wouldn't do give sabbaticals to some when others might have to be laid off. Others? No one ever thinks, of course, that it will be them. But I soon learned what she was really trying to say: "We can't give you a sabbatical because we're about to fire you."
Dr. Marshall, Dr. Bornier and I are here to warn you that what happened to us could happen to you—indeed, it already affects you. If even one tenured contract can be terminated in this way, then tenure at Southeastern has effectively vanished. That's far more serious than the reshuffling or even the termination of individual programs, no matter how much I could say about the critical importance of French. It's more serious because it undermines the integrity of the entire university—its foundations and its future. It isn't hard to predict which universities across the country will survive the current upheavals, and ultimately grow and thrive again. They're the ones that keep tenure intact. That's the bottom line. Why? Quite simply because it's the tenured and tenure-track faculty who overwhelmingly put institutions on the map through research and outreach, innovate in teaching and program development, maintain coherence and continuity, guide and sustain the academic mission. Without tenure, we truly fall to the level of a provincial institution, not in a good sense of the word.
I speak of
tenure with hard-won authority, more so than I would like. Before I came to
Southeastern, I taught for over twenty years as an instructor at the
I devoutly hope
that no other faculty member on this campus ever suffers the indignity of actual
dismissal and demotion without cause, as happened to the three of us in French.
But when you turn around and fire someone you've just honored; when you fire
someone else who is performing brilliantly at mid-career and has her best years
to give to the university; worst of all, when you fire someone who has given herself
heart and soul to students for 37 years, who has made a stellar name for
herself and for the university (it would more than double my time to tell all
that Dr. Marshall has done for Louisiana and how well-known she is in the
country and abroad), and you cut her off just three years before full
retirement benefits—when you do all that, then you have to admit you've
tarnished the friendly image of the Southeastern family beyond recognition. You're
left instead with a self-destructive, dysfunctional, oppressive sort of family,
one that subverts the ideals that a university, in the