EVEN THOUGH his last scholarly book was published some 20 years before his retirement from the English Department at the University of Maryland College Park last spring, Morris Freedman apparently likes to write. Mostly he likes to write short pieces of opinion unimpeded by facts -- as in his article in Other Voices Nov. 13, "Why I'm not picketing to 'save' College Park."
Let us be clear about the facts we face at College Park. Eight departments and two colleges are in the process of being eliminated. But the magnitude, not to mention the frequency, of the cuts is also threatening the programs that remain.
In the English Department, for instance, the number of full-time tenure-track faculty fell from 75 to 72 between 1980 and 1990, while during that same time the number of English majors increased from 200 to 1,000. In just the past two years, although the number of majors has remained constant at 1,000, the number of tenure-track faculty has fallen from 72 to 63 due to vacancies that cannot be filled because of the budget cuts.
Our department, which teaches over 10,000 students each semester, has also already been forced to lay off 15 instructors, eliminate nine graduate teaching assistantships and increase the size of classes. We have reduced the number of sections for the professional writing course required of all university students from 113 to 72 per semester.
On Nov. 1 an additional impending cut of $143,000 to the department budget was announced, a cut $43,000 greater than our entire operating budget. Should that cut be implemented, we will have to lay off yet another 15 instructors, eliminate 38 sections of required undergraduate English courses and exclude 1,500 students from instruction due to eliminated courses. Some of our students will be unable to take the courses they need to graduate in four years. No end to the cuts is in sight. Those are the facts.
As members of the English Department who live in the real world, we can't imagine that "rich lifestyle" Freedman, who retired at an annual salary of $80,000, could be describing other than his own. Our department's median salary is less than half of that. Nor do we for a moment doubt the severity of the financial crisis facing our department and our campus. Let it be clear that Freedman does not speak for us.
We are appalled at how his article distorts crucial issues in the public dialogue over the future of higher education in Maryland.
This letter was signed by 41 members of the University of Maryland College Park English Department.