Administrators Respond to Student Concerns and Faculty Leaving

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BY: MELISSA GONZALEZ, gonzalezme@mnstate.edu

The history, languages, critical race and women’s studies department is seeing two faculty members leave at the end of the semester.

American multicultural studies (AMCS) professor Dr. Phyllis May-Machunda and women’s studies (WGS) professor Dr. Kandace Creel Falcón are ending the spring 2019 semesters as their last. 

In a previous email exchange with the dean of humanities and social sciences, Randy Cagle stated that despite the administration not currently seeking a “one-for-one” replacement for May-Muchunda, they will seek opportunities to review demand and potential for the AMCS program.

In addition, the dean said the conversation about how to strengthen the appeal of ethnic/multicultural studies at MSUM will continue between the administration, students and faculty. 

Some students, though, remain skeptical.

“They like to say that nothing is happening now,” said Ponny White, president of Black Student Union, co-president of Campus Feminist Organization and a double major in multimedia journalism and political science. 

“Emphasis on the ‘now,’ which is just a smart way to handle us,” White continued. “They have slowly been cutting back on the program and their excuse for that is there’s not enough students taking it, yet they refuse to acknowledge their lack of advertisement.”

Marsha Weber, the interim vice president of academic affairs, addressed concerns White and other students have brought up as well as questions about the future plans for faculty replacement in the department. Weber stated that two different listening sessions took place in the fall semester that included a group of students and another that involved students, faculty and staff. 

In response to some students from marginalized groups whose histories and experiences are chronicled in multicultural curriculum feeling left behind or further marginalized, Weber referenced the listening sessions again.

“That’s something we heard in the listening sessions in the fall,” she said. “Which is another reason to approach this in a bigger way, beyond a single department.”

Weber shared that while the administration has no specific plans at the moment, conversations about strategies for expanding the reach of the AMCS department have taken place.

Weber says the administration is thinking about ways to bring opportunities to students across curriculums to experience multicultural education.

“We want to be creative about ways in which we can have all students be directly participating in valuable topics,” Weber said. “Thinking about it across campus. Staffing for courses can’t always be done, or isn’t the best way to be done.”

Ideas such as required events, plays, lectures and others have been bounced around for the future.

In regard to Creel-Falcón leaving, the interim vice president said that plans for replacing the WGS director’s position has been put in motion.

“In general terms, at the university when we make hiring decisions, we do it based on enrollments in programs,” Weber said. “Any decision to hire faculty in any programs will be determined by enrollment and the need for those programs.” 

When asked about low enrollment numbers and the administration’s role in advertising programs, Weber stated that promoting specific programs is not the job of the administration but rather efforts of specific departments and their workings with either the marketing department for advertising or the admissions department for recruitment efforts.

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