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Guilford College and the future of the liberal arts…

20 Nov 2020, by Ellen Yutzy Glebe in Uncategorized

Dear colleagues,

It is with considerable concern that we would like to alert you to the dire situation at our alma mater Guilford College, which recently announced plans to terminate the contracts of dozens of faculty and staff—including tenured professors who have decades of service—at the end of the current academic year. In addition, the interim president has proposed eliminating nearly all of the traditional liberal arts beyond the most basic general ed requirements. Under her plan, which the board of trustees must still approve, it will no longer be possible to major in history at Guilford, and three of the five faculty members in the department—which is celebrating its centennial this year—will be unemployed come May.

Guilford College didn’t just teach us history, Guilford College is history: founded as a coeducational boarding school in 1837 by the Religious Society of Friends, it has survived the Civil War, the Great Depression, and financial difficulties in the past. Now, faced with massive debts due to recent construction projects and lagging enrollment, it faces one of the greatest challenges in that history, but as alumni we are fighting to see both its beautiful campus—which is included on the National Register of Historic Places—and its tradition preserved.

As the only Quaker college in the Southeast, Guilford, though far from perfect, has long been a beacon for social justice. The woods adjacent to the campus sheltered those fleeing from slavery along the Underground Railroad, and Guilford students participated in the sit-ins at Woolworth in Greensboro in 1960. The egalitarian spirit of Quakerism pervades the college culture, where students and professors are on a first name basis and decisions about the government of the college have traditionally been made via consensus. As students at Guilford, we treasured this campus spirit and we profited from close relationships with our professors—both in the history department and beyond—who challenged us to see the world in new ways, hone our critical thinking skills, and vow to improve the world after graduation. Guilford history grads have gone on to study abroad as Fulbright scholars, attended some of the country’s finest graduate programs, teach history at all levels and in a variety of contexts, and work in a number of related fields in both the public and private sector. Now we are appalled to see the school considering such drastic cuts to the liberal arts, preparing to slash programs due to wholesale market research suggesting it would be more profitable to focus on narrowly focused preprofessional degrees.

Beyond our personal sense of grief at seeing an institution we feel loyalty to treating our former mentors in this manner, we worry about the precedent such cuts set more generally. Although the Guilford faculty have proposed a variety of potential solutions for alleviating the budget gap, these proposals have been largely ignored. The recent departmental reviews were not transparent, and faculty are being dismissed although the college has not filed for financial exigency. These cuts are ostensibly part of an “academic program prioritization,” but at Guilford College, the faculty are supposed to determine curriculum. Professors who have spent decades teaching at Guilford—often for sub-market pay but with the assurance of tenure—are now being let go. And those who remain are expected to teach general education courses in departments stripped down to the barest minimum.

It is as a result of these concerns that we ask for your help. A coalition of alumni is forming in hopes that we can still avert these changes and force the college administration and board of trustees to consider other alternatives. A critical part of the equation is financial, and we are working hard to make that happen by pledging our support to the school if it develops in a way congruent with its tradition. In addition, we have set up a petition for those whose lives have been touched by Guilford, and social media accounts (Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) for news about our efforts. If you feel so moved, please write to the interim president, Carol Moore (president@guilford.edu), the interim provost, Rob Whitnell (rwhitnel@guilford.edu) and the chair of the board of trustees, Ed Winslow (ewinslow@brookspierce.com), to let them know that there is a market and a place for history and the liberal arts, and that colleges like Guilford have something important to offer. And, as we learned to say at Guilford, please hold the college in the Light.

Sincerely,

 

Ellen Yutzy Glebe, self-employed translator and editor in Kassel, Germany

Guilford College ’01, BA History and German

UC-Berkeley ’08, PhD Early Modern European History

 

Benjamin Thorne, associate professor of history at Wingate University

Guilford College ’99, BA History and English literature

Indiana University ’13, PhD East European history

 

David Ragsdale, retired from the NC Department Secretary of State

Guilford College ’04, BA History

 

Edward Guimont, adjunct professor at University of Connecticut-Stamford and Springfield College

Guilford College ’09, BA in History and political science

University of Connecticut ’19, PhD History

 

Anne Spencer Megerian, librarian

Guilford College ’14, BA History

UNC-Greensboro ’18, MLIS

 

David Cooke, teacher, Guilford County schools

Guilford College ’00, BA History

 

Tali Raphael, historic public records division of the Library of Congress, copyright office

Guilford College ’13, History and religious studies

 

Rachael Jeffers, associate director of engagement, Rhode Island Council for the Humanities

Guilford College ’09, BA History with minors in peace and conflict studies and community studies

Brown University, MA Public humanities

 

James Shields, former director of the Bonner Center at Guilford College (2001–2020)

Guilford College ’00, BA History and African American studies

 

Edna Johnston, principal of History Matters LLC

Guilford College ’84, BA History

Catholic University of America ’90, MA History

University of Virginia, doctoral studies

 

Maddie Holland, manager of research and analytics for Colliers International

Guilford College ’13, BA History and religious studies

 

Dorothy Browne, nonprofit fundraiser

Guilford College ’90, BA History

Graduate Center CUNY, PhD History

 

Kinsey Gimbel, director of qualitative research at ANR Market Research Consultants

Guilford College ’97, BA History and sociology/anthropology

 

Eli Cloonan, quality assurance specialist for a contact tracing project for MAXIMUS, in partnership with the Indiana State Department of Health

Guilford College ’15, BA History, political science, and European studies

Central European University, MA International relations/global economic relations

 

Alvis Dunn, associate professor of history at UNC-Asheville

UNC-Chapel Hill ’99, PhD History

Guilford College 1998–2013, Assistant professor of history and history department chair

 

Sarah Malino, American history professor emerita from Guilford College (1977–2013)

Wellesley College ’67, BA

Columbia University ’82, PhD American history

 

Leslie Leonard, assistant site manager, Charlotte Hawkins Brown Museum in the division of NC State Historic Sites

Guilford College ’14, BA History

UNC-Greensboro, MA History with a concentration in museum studies

 

Amy McMinn, AP world history teacher at Colegio Interamericano in Guatemala City

Guilford College ’13, BA History and political science

UNC-Chapel Hill, MA Political Science

 

Joanna DiStefano, program manager, West Virginia University Health Sciences Global Engagement Office

Guilford College ’03, BA History and political science

Creighton University ’14, MS Negotiation and Dispute Resolution

 

Franklin Suggs

Guilford College ’07, BA History

 

Michael Alighieri Caswell

Guilford College ’15, BA History and German

 

Meaghan Seal, human resources manager

Guilford College ’11, BA History and French

 

Steve Harrison, vice president for auxiliary enterprises, Coastal Carolina University

Guilford College ’03, BA History

 

Scott Daniel Weiss, wine manager

Guilford College ’12, BA History

 

Elias Smolcic-Larson

Guilford College ’19, BA History

 

Kenneth Bausell, B.S.N., RN, IDD/TBI section manager at NC Medicaid

Guilford College ’01, History and religious studies

 

Lizzy Kapuscinski

Guilford College ’20, BA History and political science

 

Brenna Walsh, ESL teacher and freelance editor

Guilford College ’17, BA History

 

Natalie Anderson, local government officer in the education department of Denbighshire County Council, UK

Guilford College ’09, BA History with minor in medieval and early modern studies

University of Leeds, UK, MA & PhD

 

Lillian O’Briant Jordan, retired district court judge

Guilford College ’61, BA History

Wake Forest School of Law, JD

 

AC Cunap, college access and success manager at Partnership for the Future

Guilford College ’15, BA History and philosophy

 

Chelsea D. Yarborough, consultant

Guilford College ’15, BA History and women’s, gender, and sexuality studies

NC Central University, MA Public history (current student)

 

Reva Kreeger

Guilford College ’20, BA History

 

Chris Pugliese, senior product manager for Healthcare Tech Company

Guilford College ’09, BA History and political science

 

 

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