We, undersigned professors from Central, Eastern, Southern, and Western Connecticut State universities, believe that it is our responsibility and moral obligation to speak up on behalf and in support of our faculty colleagues and our students, and to express our deepest concerns about the harmful consequences that the contract proposals by the Board of Regents currently under negotiation will have on our students, our four institutions, and the future workforce of our state.
We would like to emphasize three areas that we deem as the most adversely affected by the proposal: (1) academic freedom and its relationship to teaching quality, (2) faculty research and its direct impact on workforce development for Connecticut, and (3) the necessary role of shared governance, particularly in the accreditation process of the four Connecticut state universities.
The contract proposed by the BOR attacks standards of academic freedom. Together with our faculty colleagues, we are more than academic instructors who deliver a standardized product. The courses we teach are a result of knowledge and skills uniquely acquired and equally uniquely delivered to individuals with various educational and cultural backgrounds, life experiences, and goals. Academic freedom is essential because we constantly adjust and reevaluate our materials and teaching methods to meet the needs of students.
Because we enjoy academic freedom, we can foster our students’ learning and intellectual growth and yield the best results. We can select materials that will challenge them and make them think. The exchange of ideas that takes place in the classroom promotes academic and personal growth.
The current BOR proposal significantly reduces funding for mechanisms that allow this to take place, such as in the areas of faculty development and curriculum-related activities. These funds have played an extremely positive role in keeping CSU faculty at the leading edge of teaching methods and allowing them to create new teaching paradigms.
We believe that if these funds are eliminated, there would be a straight line from that point to more of a “cookie cutter” approach to teaching with less innovation and energy in the classroom, to the detriment of the students and their ability to achieve after graduation. It will also ultimately make the four CSUs less competitive at recruiting students over time, something the BOR must surely want to avoid.
CSU faculty research has a direct and practical impact on our students. It informs our teaching and inspires our students. By curtailing the funds for faculty research through the elimination of research travel funds, university research grants, and restructuring of the research reassigned time allocation, the BOR will negatively affect our students’ ability to secure jobs and internships and will critically reduce their choices of graduate school education. By imposing an increased teaching load that effectively leaves no time for research, the BOR will hurt those that we, the CSU faculty, put first, our students.
Because we are researchers, we can also serve as mentors, and not just in our respective labs and offices. We take students to conferences and theatre festivals where, beyond providing them with a venue to showcase their work and their talent, we help them network, opening doors to an internship or an archeological dig or a spot in a graduate program. Because we are researchers, we hire our students as research assistants to teach them how to do research that contributes to improving their lives and the lives of others.
By limiting faculty research, the BOR is limiting options for our students. They will miss out on being exposed to and interacting with organizations that can be their potential employers. They will miss out on discovering new areas of knowledge in which they can participate and excel. They will miss out on developing the intellectual confidence that comes from being involved in innovative and impactful research.
Another detrimental effect that the BOR’s limiting faculty research will have is that the CSUs will likely be less capable in bringing external research money into Connecticut, hurting their bottom lines, and also be less able to turn around and offer the results of the research for the good of the state, hurting the state as a whole.
As Connecticut state employees of public institutions whose students come overwhelmingly from our state and remain in Connecticut’s workforce, not only is it our professional responsibility to provide the best teaching possible and prepare our students for the most fulfilling jobs, we also deeply care about them as individuals. Many are first-generation university students. As faculty, we encourage their educational journey, make them aware of their potential, and help them realize that potential.
We care about our students’ success and well-being; we value them because we are valued by our leadership, who are aware of all the essential non-teaching work we do, the true meaning of putting “students first.” We have always gone above and beyond what we are expected to do because the Board of Regents valued and trusted us.
The current contract proposal demeans us and takes away our responsibility for the shared governance of our universities. It is an unwarranted affront to our professionalism and our sense of ethics. The BOR’s attempt to discontinue shared governance, a crucial requirement for reaccreditation, is simply unjustified.
Working every day in the classroom or in the challenge-ridden online environment, the CSU faculty open the minds, feed the intellect, and tend to the emotional and mental health of Connecticut’s young adults, preparing them for a brighter and more secure future. The Board of Regents of our state institutions instead seeks to close educational doors and, with this contract proposal, to sentence our youth to a dismal and undeserved future. We therefore respectfully ask that the BOR approaches the contract negotiations in good faith, with respect for the faculty’s work, our professionalism, and our sense of ethics, with our students’ and future workforce’s pursuit of professional and personal happiness as a goal for a strong Connecticut.
Imna Arroyo, ECSU, Professor Emerita
Michèle Bacholle, ECSU, Professor
Felton Best, CCSU, Professor
John Briggs, WCSU, Professor Emeritus
Terrence Dwyer, WCSU, Professor
Edward Hagan, WCSU, Professor
Elliott Horch, SCSU, Professor
Anna Kirchmann, ECSU, Professor
Raouf Mama, ECSU, Professor
James E. Mazur, SCSU, Professor Emeritus
Norton Mezvinsky, CCSU, Professor Emeritus
Thomas Philbrick, WCSU, Professor
Heather Prescott, CCSU, Professor
James W. Russell, ECSU, Professor Emeritus
Vivian Shipley, SCSU, Professor
Jeffrey Trawick-Smith, ECSU, Professor Emeritus and Endowed Chair