Letter sent to hundreds of Wells alumnae.

September 2010

Dear Sister Wells Alumnae,

Late last month President Ryerson and Provost Miller-Bernal unilaterally eliminated three academic disciplines from the curriculum of Wells College. They terminated all tenured or tenure-track faculty in Music, French and Religion: Professors Malena, Penniman, Siamundele, Staples and Thoburn. This was done without without consultation with the Divisions or Faculty at large, and without input from the Curriculum or Advisory Committees.

In addition, two tenured professors of Math did not return to Wells this fall after sabbatical leaves: Carol and Arnold Shilepsky. One tenure-track-professor of Chemistry, Amy Godert, resigned after the semester began to take another job. Four professors announced their imminent retirement and became part-time: Collmer in Biology, Farnsworth in History, Purdy in Philosophy, and Vawter in Biology. Dimitrova, a visiting assistant professor in Art History, has been terminated; others in her category may be cut as well.

These 13 professors - 25% of the college's continuing full-time faculty - are not being replaced by other full-time faculty. Some part-time adjuncts may be hired on a fee per-course basis. But in the arts and humanities, many adjuncts have been cut back or fired.

While decimating the faculty, President Ryerson refuses to divest the college of its expanded but consistently deficit-inducing "hospitality" enterprises. In the last 4 years, several million dollars have been taken from the annual fund and endowment, and squandered on unprofitable businesses: a market, bar and grill, inn and restaurant, and coffee shop.

Meanwhile, the staffing of new intercollegiate sports programs has grown to include 14 full-time and 6 part-time coaches (not including other adjunct phys ed instructors). Expenditures for sports facilities, equipment, travel and training camps may now well exceed funding for all academic disciplines combined.

Below is an informative statement from the music department that was read into the minutes of a recent faculty meeting, and links to other background sources to help you evaluate the situation.

If you are at all concerned about the survival of Wells College as a viable Liberal Arts institution, please share this information with other alumnae and voice your objections immediately to the Administration and Trustees.

Helen L. Fairchild


Statement of the Music Faculty 9/14/10

The music faculty would like to share with the community some information about the music program at Wells College, because we are concerned about what we perceive to be an invalid premise upon which the administration has based their decision to eliminate all the tenure-track positions in music.

Their publicly stated rationale is that there are too few students electing to major or take courses in music, and that such low enrollments do not justify keeping these two positions or the concentration within the Performing Arts major. We would emphasize that there has not been a music major at Wells for many years. We have been operating as a concentration within a performing arts major, and as such make essential contributions to the programs of students concentrating in Theatre and Dance, as well as music.

The music faculty has carefully reviewed enrollments in our offerings, and we wonder what standards the administration used to come to their conclusion. Our program at Wells is now taught by four faculty: two full-time tenured faculty and two adjunct part-timers. During the Fall 2010 semester we have 150 students enrolled in our courses, or 28% of the total student population of 553, as listed in the Globe. We also learned from consulting that list that 195 of the 553 currently enrolled students have participated in at least one credit-bearing musical activity during their collegiate careers.

We arrived at this figure by having each music faculty member identify which students they have taught. As many of these students have studied with two or more of us we actually identified 283 student “contacts” with the music faculty, reflecting how widely our staff interacts with the student body.

These figures do not show the number of courses which each of these students has taken with our music faculty. We do know for certain that a large proportion take two or more courses - particularly in the study of an instrument or participation in an ensemble, which may be repeated several times for credit.

The 195 students identified by the music faculty comprise a significant proportion of the total student body - 35% of the total student roster of 553. We question what other academic disciplines in the college attract this degree of interest, either current or long term. Our current enrollment certainly exceeds the 140 students who chose to participate in intercollegiate sports during the 2008-09 academic year, the latest year for which we have figures (from the Globe). The Physical Education faculty do not offer a major or a concentration; yet the college is maintaining 14 full-time (and several part-time) coaches and trainers to service these 140 students, while the music program has made do with two full-time and two part-time faculty teaching 150 students. Another way of putting it is that the music student/ faculty ratio is 37 to 1, while that of the Physical Education program is 10 to 1.

We firmly believe that these statistics effectively contradict the contention of the administration that the music program does not serve a large enough body of students to justify its existence in its present configuration, and we question the wisdom of choosing to essentially eliminate a crucial component of the Liberal Arts, one which is so obviously valued by a significant proportion of the students at Wells.

The destruction of the academic music program at Wells was effected without review or discussion by the Curriculum Committee or the Faculty as a whole. This is a dangerous precedent, and one which clearly contradicts the By-Laws of the Board of Trustees and the Faculty Manual despite the Advisory and Curriculum committee’s decision not to participate in the process.

Furthermore, the administration’s unilateral decision to eliminate all tenured faculty in Music contradicts the college's very recently adopted 10-Year Plan, issued in November 2008. This plan - endorsed by the Faculty, Administration, and Board of Trustees - called for the college to "strengthen the Music component of the Major Field of Performing Arts" as a necessary change in the academic program "in order to achieve greater focus and make better use of faculty's expertise as well as make the curriculum more attractive to prospective and current students."

For all the reasons outlined above, we strongly urge the faculty, administration and trustees to re-examine the decision to destroy the concentration in Music as an academic field by eliminating the two tenure-track positions in music, and to consider very seriously what academic priorities will best serve the immediate and long-range interests of the college.

Laura Campbell
Victor Penniman
Russell Posegate
Crawford R. Thoburn


Statement from the Music Faculty, 9/14/10 as above:

Athletics Staff listing:

Contact info for the Board of Trustees:

Local press: major programs cut

Local press: endowment losses and salary cuts

Students express “No Confidence” in President Ryerson:

Links to last spring’s Faculty Resolution to the Board of Trustees:

Statement from President Ryerson:

Documents and Discussion on an Alumnae Facebook site:

Alumnae Petition to “Save Wells College” begun last summer: