The Shakespeare Conference: SHK 14.1458 Thursday, 17 July 2003
From: Richard Burt <
Date: Tuesday, 15 Jul 2003 08:41:26 -0400
Subject: Boston Globe and Chronicle of Higher Education on UMass
Though of tangential relation to the SHAKSPER list, I think it is worth
alerting to members of this listserv of two related and disturbing
stories on the declining fortunes of the University of Massachusetts,
Amherst. The stories ran in the Boston Globe and the Chronicle of Higher
Education. A NY Times reporter (Fox Butterfield) interviewed me a week
ago about a story he was writing on UMass, and that may run soon. I
bring these stories to the attention of members of this listserv for two
reasons. First, UMass has been a strong presence in the fields of the
Renaissance and Shakespeare, and hence what is happening to UMass is a
particular concern to those of us researching and teaching in these
fields. Second, since the cuts that are happening to UMass are happening
in a number of other states, what is happening to higher public
education in MA is of national interest. (I recommend as well Stephen
Greenblatt's Presidential Address in the May 2003 issue of PMLA.) The
future of Renaissance / Shakespeare studies at UMass does not look
entirely catastrophic, but it does not look at all bright either. Some
details: the Renaissance Center at UMass continues, as does ELR, for the
time being, but all funding for the University of Massachusetts Press
has been cut (see the story in Chronicle of Higher Education in "Hot
Type"). The Press may or may not manage to continue with a 50 percent
reduction in staff and entirely private funds. If it doesn't, the
Renaissance series there will of course fold. (The Foreign Language
Center was cut last year and the Translation Center has been cut this
year.) More alarming, in some ways, is the reduction of full-time tenure
track faculty at UMass over the past decade and more. The number of
faculty there is now at pre-World War II levels. None of the four senior
Renaissance faculty who have retired or left UMass (Kathy Swaim, Don
Cheney, Normand [sic] Berlin, and me) over the past few years has been
replaced. (I have moved to the University of Florida.) Nor is it clear
when, of if, any of us will be. There is presently a hiring freeze at
UMass. Moreover, nearly all of the remaining faculty at UMass will
retire in the next five years, probably less. The most distinguished
member of the Renaissance and Shakespeare faculty, in my view, says he
will retire in 2004. All of the remaining Renaissance and Shakespeare
faculty are now over 60 and most are already at or over retirement age
(one is 70 this year, another over 70). I was the last assistant
professor in these fields to be hired. That was in 1986. I don't know
if UMass's experience is typical of other national state universities,
or if it is the canary in the mine. (UMass will probably raise student
fees another 15k a year; U of Maryland has had extensive cuts, and a 13
percent increase in student fees; the UC and CSU systems will probably
also substantively raise fees. See the stories below) But given the huge
federal budget deficits, the anti-tax fever at the state and federal
levels, the right-wing project of defunding government, and the rise of
anti-academic sentiment among taxpayers (we now rank down there with
lawyers and journalists in the public's esteem), UMass may find it is
not alone in being ravaged by a perfect storm that has been brewing for
years and likely to continue for many more.
From the issue dated July 18, 2003
U. of Massachusetts Press Faces Loss of Its Entire
Institutional Subsidy, 25% of Its Budget
By DAVID GLENN
THE LAST DAYS OF SUBSIDY: Most people at the University of Massachusetts
would probably love to forget the last six months. William M. Bulger,
the system's president, has been battling Gov. Mitt Romney's attempts to
eliminate his position, and in his spare time he has testified before a
Congressional committee about his fugitive brother's whereabouts.
Meanwhile, the state's fiscal crisis has deepened, and the flagship
Amherst campus alone faces a loss of at least $41-million in state
support in the 2004 fiscal year.
Little noticed amid the turmoil is a relatively small budget line: The
university will cut its entire $340,000 annual subsidy to the University
of Massachusetts Press. That figure represents just over 25 percent of
the press's annual revenue.
Bruce Wilcox, the press's director, says that after several weeks of
heartburn, he is cautiously optimistic that the press will continue to
thrive. He is aggressively pursuing new sources of support, and he has
negotiated a package of what he calls "bridge funding" with the Amherst
campus's chancellor, John V. Lombardi, that will allow the subsidy to be
phased out over a three-year period. "We'll maintain the quality and the
integrity of our program, and we'll continue to publish roughly 40
titles a year," says Mr. Wilcox.
The press will immediately shift its printing, warehousing, and
fulfillment functions to the Johns Hopkins University Press, an
arrangement that Mr. Wilcox says will result in significant savings. The
press also anticipates that at least four employees in the marketing and
business departments will take advantage of an early-retirement program
offered by the state.
The cuts were unexpected, even in the context of the state's budget
crisis, according to Richard Burt, who was until June head of the
press's editorial board and a professor of English at UMass. (He is
moving to the University of Florida.) "It was a real shock," he says.
"The administration has identified the core missions of the university
as teaching and research, and what could be more central to those
missions than a university press? There was a lot of shock and dismay
about that. The press has been highly successful. It's been in the
black, and its books are reviewed all over the place."
Mr. Wilcox's plight has heightened anxiety levels at academic presses
far from Amherst. In early June, dozens of university-press directors
sent letters to Mr. Lombardi in an unsuccessful attempt to persuade him
to restore the subsidy. "Any time you have to reduce support for a
stellar organization like our press, of course you're going to hear from
constituents, as you should," says Mr. Lombardi. "I think I heard from
every university press in the country. And they were all absolutely
correct. But that didn't make any of the funding issues any easier. None
of those letters came with a check attached."
It is particularly dismaying that a small, well-regarded press should
face such news, says Seetha Srinivasan, director of the University Press
of Mississippi and president of the Association of American University
Presses. "UMass has a great publishing program," she says. "Their staff
is highly respected. Their director -- I mean, everything about them is
so first-rate. To know that they were in this kind of trouble was deeply
The press's traditional focus has been "American studies, broadly
construed," in Mr. Wilcox's words. In the past year, the press has
published titles in conjunction with the Library of Congress, the
American Antiquarian Society, and the Library of American Landscape
Its most widely reviewed 2003 book is a novel whose title now has an
unanticipated resonance: The Last Days of Publishing, by Tom Engelhardt,
an industry veteran who is now a consulting editor at Metropolitan
Books. Mr. Engelhardt developed a relationship with the press in 1998,
when he was shopping for a new home for his book The End of Victory
Culture: Cold War America and the Disillusioning of a Generation. That
book's original publisher, Basic Books, "did this little hideous
biodegradable paperback, which I hated," says Mr. Engelhardt. A few
years later, the rights reverted to Mr. Engelhardt, and he sought out a
press that could give the book better treatment.
"I worked at Pantheon, starting as an editor in '76," says Mr.
Engelhardt, "and the two guys who I met at Massachusetts, Bruce Wilcox
and Clark Dougan [the senior editor], kind of reminded me of that world,
the early world of Pantheon. They were both very smart, and they knew
publishing, and I just thought, these are intelligent guys. They
produced a beautiful book. It's a gorgeous paperback, the one I dreamed
of. And they did a nice job of marketing it -- they launched it into
courses. We're not talking a hundred thousand -- we're talking, I don't
know, 1,200 a year. But it's very nice."
Mr. Engelhardt says that he has been dismayed to see some larger
academic presses stumble as they have rapidly expanded or awkwardly
pursued the trade market. He admires the UMass press, he says, for its
focus and its small scale. "It would truly be a sad thing if places like
this that are being intelligently run, that really -- I mean, they need
chicken feed to get by. It's just not chicken feed in the new Bush
UMass cuts bring faculty exodus
By Jenna Russell, Globe Staff, 7/5/2003
When sociology professor Sarah Babb landed a job at the University of
Massachusetts at Amherst five years ago, she thought she might spend her
career there. The department was building a roster of talented young
scholars, and she liked the idea of teaching first-generation college
students near her family in the Berkshires.
But Babb, 36, will leave Amherst this summer for a new job at Boston
College. Though the pay is better, the prestige is not -- her new
department was ranked 51st in the country by US News & World Report in
2001, 13 notches below UMass.
But like other up-and-coming young UMass faculty, Babb's decision was
influenced by two years of budget cuts that have stalled salaries,
increased teaching loads, and taken time and money from research. "It's
everyday hassles, like you can't buy toner cartridges," said Babb. "The
retirees aren't replaced with full-time staff, so you can't get help
when you need it. To go to conferences, I had to pay out of my own
pocket. And there have been no raises in three years.''
As UMass battles with budget problems, young professors across the state
are leaving the system for jobs elsewhere, saying the drop-off in
support for the school helped drive their decisions to leave.
The university's four undergraduate campuses together lost 250 tenured
professors to last year's early retirement initiative, according to the
president's office. Most have not been replaced with full-time
professors, leaving departments shouldering heavier teaching and
advising loads. Class sizes are increasing, while teaching assistants,
who can make more money elsewhere, are in short supply. With smaller
support staffs, simple tasks like changing grades or answering phones
take more of the faculty's time.
At UMass-Amherst, Babb is the third young sociologist to leave in three
years, department chairman Randall Stokes said. The English department
saw two resignations in the spring, which the chairman described as
atypical. "We don't lose people," she said. At UMass-Dartmouth, the
biology department has lost five of its last nine hires, none of whom
stayed longer than two years, the department chairman said, while in the
English department, where four new professors have arrived in the past
five years, three out of four have resigned.
"It's enormously frustrating," said Edwin Thompson, chairman of the
UMass-Dartmouth English department. "We put a lot of effort into
recruiting these people, and we need the new blood. To have the
excitement and energy they bring leave very quickly -- it's very
deflating for those who remain."
Keeping ambitious young faculty members is important for departments'
reputations, which rise and fall on books and articles published by
rising stars. The professors bring in research funds, and top graduate
students, helping to ensure long-term institutional health.
Modern American historian Kevin Boyle, 42, says that like Babb, he
expected to spend his career in Amherst. He changed course after
watching his department shrink by a half-dozen professors in eight
years, struggling to secure funds to purchase the latest materials,
while worrying that his wife's campus job would be eliminated. "While
the faculty was wonderful, everyone was stretched way too thin," he
said. "We were overwhelmed just keeping things running."
He accepted a job offer from Ohio State University at a salary that
UMass matched in a last-ditch effort to keep him. Today, after a year in
Ohio, he said he has revised his idea of what a large public campus
looks like. "Old buildings are updated here," he said. "Things are
Some movement by young faculty is typical, said Rosemary Feal, executive
director of the Modern Language Association. Mobility is usually
inhibited by a poor economy, but if budget cuts result in "basic
prestige being ground away," she said, the most promising scholars will
look to teach and publish elsewhere.
In 2001-02, there were 18 resignations at UMass-Amherst. During the
mid-1990s, when the university's budget was more stable, the school saw
between 12 and 17 resignations a year, deputy provost John Cunningham
said. So far this spring, his office has been told of six departures,
but names will continue to trickle in until mid-August. With more states
strapped for cash, "raids" by rival schools may decline this year, he
said. At the same time, the university's "defense" budget, for matching
rivals' offers, is "essentially nonexistent," he said.
With a tough job market for academics across the country, and budget
cutbacks in many state university systems, UMass still receives plenty
of applications for faculty openings, department heads across the system
said. A recent search for two English professors at UMass-Boston, in
fiction writing and Victorian literature, brought in 300 applications,
department chairman Robert Crossley said. The school got its top pick
for both jobs. "They were aware of the budget, but they also knew
institutions around the country are in tough shape," he said.
The English department at UMass-Dartmouth also hired two professors and
got its first choice for each job. But the head of its hiring committee,
three-year veteran Mary Hallet, is leaving this fall for Long Island
University. Long Island, a private school, offered her a $10,000 raise,
which she expects to be consumed by the higher cost of living near New
York. More attractive, she said, was the prospect of a lighter,
three-course teaching load, money for travel, a sure schedule of pay
raises, and assistants to help her run the school's writing program -- a
job she did at UMass by herself.
"I love my students and colleagues, but I decided I needed to take care
of myself," she said. "I wouldn't have looked if it wasn't for the
cuts." Some said that even with job openings, the budget has been an
obstacle to hiring the most qualified people. Dorothy Read, chairwoman
of the biology department at UMass-Dartmouth, lost two of her
first-choice picks last spring, partly because she couldn't offer
so-called "start-up money" to help the scientists set up research
Budget uncertainty has also hurt some searches for new faculty. Read
said delays in authorizing searches pushed back interviews in her
department to May, when some top candidates had already accepted other
job offers. While happy with his hires in English, Thompson said the
pool would have been larger and richer if the search had begun on time
last summer, instead of when hiring was finally approved in the winter.
For the past four years, Sunaina Maira was hired to launch an
Asian-American studies program at UMass-Amherst. During that time no
other faculty were hired for the program, she said. She felt the cuts in
subtle ways -- poorly heated buildings, departments with too few
secretaries -- and in her own tiny budget.
UMass faculty ''really struggle to do a lot with a little, but they get
tired, really beaten down,'' she said.
In the spring, she accepted a job at the University of California,
Davis, where Asian-American studies is an established department, with
Like other faculty members who are leaving, she praised the university's
students, who sometimes must shift their own studies to adjust to the
loss of a mentor. Josh Carreiro, a graduate student in sociology at
UMass-Amherst, is rethinking his dissertation plans since Babb's
resignation, and laments that his degree may lose value as a result of
the young professor's departure.
If he was less than halfway to his own degree, he said, he might have
followed Babb to Boston.
''I was pretty devastated,'' said Carreiro. ''She comes from one of the
top programs in the field, and trained with preeminent scholars, so my
ability to work with her was the next best thing.''
Jenna Russell can be reached at
Maryland Increases College Tuition by 13%
By THE NEW YORK TIMES
BALTIMORE, July 12
The Board of Regents for Maryland's public colleges and universities has
approved tuition increases averaging 13 percent. The increases, imposed
on Friday, are in addition to 5 percent tuition increases that the board
approved in January for all but two colleges in the University System of
The latest increases follow state budget cuts that have reduced the
university system's appropriation by more than $120 million since last
fall. The cutbacks will also compel the university system to eliminate
nearly 800 jobs, the chancellor of the system, William E. Kirwan, told
the board on Friday.
State financing for the system has been cut 14 percent in the last year,
more than three times the average percentage for other state agencies,
Dr. Kirwan said. He called the cuts "disproportionate, harmful and
Tuition for full-time students at the system's flagship, the University
of Maryland, College Park, will increase 16 percent, to $5,568 for state
residents and $16,242 for out-of-state students.
Budget Pain Will Widen if College Fees Are Hiked
The state's middle class may feel the pinch soon as UC and Cal State
consider hefty increases.
By Jeffrey L. Rabin and Rebecca Trounson, LA Times Staff Writers
California's budget crisis reaches the state's broad middle class this
week, when governing boards of the University of California and the
California State University systems are expected to approve fee
increases for 600,000 students.
Those increases could mark the leading edge of a wave of impact on the
state's higher education systems. California officials say that if the
deadlock that has prevented passage of a state budget continues much
longer, they could be forced to temporarily stop payment of Cal Grant
scholarships to 220,000 low- and middle-income students.
On Wednesday, the UC Board of Regents will vote on a recommendation by
university officials, who argue that without raising fees substantially,
they will be forced to make deep cuts in administration, libraries,
research, outreach and student services. Under the proposal that the
regents are considering, the cost for a California resident to attend
the university as an undergraduate would jump by as much as $1,150,
which would bring systemwide fees to $4,984 a year.
And if Cal State trustees agree, the basic fees charged to residents to
attend undergraduate classes at a state university would jump by $474 to
$2,046 a year.
Full story at
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