SUNY Albany Demotes Self to Large, Ugly Trade School
Without the money or grades for Cornell (despite my stellar SAT scores), SUNY Albany was one of my limited options for undergrad. Of course, between the undergrad-vomit-streaked tower dorms and my parents’ assurances that it was “only a few hours away,” it’s probably no surprise that I decided on its sister SUNY school in Buffalo. There, after an ill-conceived attempt at a chem major, I hit my stride and discovered the joys of Latin verse and Augustinian theology. Cut ahead a few years, and I’m a Ph.D in medieval history, a Fulbright fellow, and a college professor actively researching and writing in my field.
Why am I telling you all this? Because I was a so-so student who went to SUNY, found my passion—in my case, through the Classics department—and blossomed as a student and as a person. That’s why I took it very personally when the University at Albany decided to axe its own Classics department, along with French, Italian, Russian, and Theatre—along the way, also firing tenured faculty, which has earned them censure from the American Association of University Professors. Needless to say, I’m rather pissed off in a rather non-tweedy way.
It’s no secret that I’m a foe of hierarchies in higher ed. For rather obvious reasons, what matters for me is not the school your daddy could afford; it’s the quality of your work. I may not have chosen Albany for my undergrad, but that doesn’t reflect on the excellent quality of the faculty and alumni. To cite one example, John Monfasani of the History department is a lion in the field; his former student Christoper Celenza, whose work I admire greatly, earned his BA and MA in history at SUNY Albany and then two Ph.Ds at Heidelberg and Duke.
Why did they cut these five departments? Money, of course. Thanks to the renowned incompetence of the state legislature, the University faced a $12 million shortfall. The argument was that there weren’t enough majors in the affected departments to justify keeping them. Who would they never cut, then? Business and Educational Administration and Policy Studies; Health Policy, Management and Behavior; or IT Management—majors that make a college seem more like a trade school.
This devaluing of humanistic knowledge is shameful. Not only is Classics is the foundation for a liberal education—the sort of ur-department in any university—but French, Russian, Italian, and Theatre are all useful majors. The study of languages speaks for itself (literally), and Theatre grads with lighting and set experience are keyed into a little scene down I-87 that they call “Broadway” (and off-Broadway, and off-off Broadway…). What’s more, axing the departments doesn’t even save the school any money in the end: There will be lawsuits by the affected faculty, and possibly by students, and the eventual payout will likely be more money than the administration would have saved. (SUNY faculty claim due process was not followed, but a hand-selected committee rubber-stamped an executive decision.)
What is worst, however, is that the SUNY Albany administration has said by their decision that the class system is alive and well, and that they are on the bottom. Things like French and Classics are not for mere state university students. In doing so, they have as much as admitted that they are a second-class university serving the dregs who could not get into “real” schools. The liberal arts are for the elite; the hoi poloi such as SUNY students should concentrate on IT management. If this is so, it means that I, a SUNY grad in Classics, have no business doing what I’m doing for a living. That’s why I’m worse than horrified by the SUNY Albany firings—I am personally insulted by them.
Follow us on twitter@thefastertimes
- 1 Amanda Bynes’s Behavior Revealed to Be Elaborate PSA
- 2 Obama Horrified by the Grammar in Our Emails
- 3 Monster Fart Prompting Management to Rethink “Open Office”
- 4 NSA Demanded Access To Un-Filtered Instagram Photos
- 5 Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson Ambushed By Alan ‘The Paper’ Rubinstein
- 6 ‘Licensed to Kim Jong Il’ Records 27th Straight Year Atop N. Korean Charts
- 7 Vice Magazine Now Only Hiring Writers Who Fail Drug Test
- 8 Henry Cavill to be Replaced by Stack of Pancakes in “Man of Steel” Sequel
- 9 Taco Bell Now Just Dumping Bags of Doritos Into Everything On Menu
- 10 Stanley Cup Final One Blowout Away From “Boston Massacre” Headline Outrage