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Faculty changes in history, English, math departments

EDIT: In the print version of this article it states that Matt Schownir taught at HU in 2009. He graduated from HU in 2009 and taught in 2016.

Four faculty members are leaving the university at the end of this school year. Terrell Peace, department chair of education, and Linda Urschel, department chair of English, are retiring. Kate Brown, assistant professor of political science, and Brian Rice, assistant professor of mathematics, are pursuing teaching opportunities elsewhere.

Dwight Brautigam, department chair of history, said he’s sad that Brown is leaving, but thinks her new job teaching at Western Kentucky University is “a good opportunity for her.”

He also professed his disappointment toward the administration’s decision to not hire a full-time, replacement faculty member.

“We have someone who’s gonna be a part-time instructor because the administration is not willing to hire a full-time [professor],” he said. “I wish they hired full time. It makes things hard for us.”

Matthew Schownir, adjunct professor of history and political science, who specializes in European history, will be the new part-time professor in the history department. 

Brautigam said the department is glad they have him and wish he could be a full-time professor. 

The English department is also facing changes with the absence of Urschel. 

Urschel, the current department chair, will retire at the end of the academic year. Todd Martin, professor of English, will assume her position.

The administration has not decided to hire a new instructor as Urschel’s replacement at this time.

Martin said he’s disappointed the English department will not have a new full-time professor.

“Three years ago, we had four full-time faculties,” he said. “Now two —it feels drastic. My concern is [the] overall trend at [the] university. We’re adding more faculty for professional programs, while cutting faculties in liberal arts. As a result, the voice of liberal arts faculty diminishes.”

 The math department has experienced faculty changes over two years and is continuing to do so this coming year.

Rice is not returning this fall, instead, starting his career at a tech company in San Francisco.

For his replacement, the university hired Kevin Drury, who was a vising professor at HU last year, as a full-time faculty member.

Jeff Lehman, department chair of computer science and mathematics, said he’s optimistic for the upcoming year.

“I’m pleased with Dr. Drury,” he said. “We have a good team to build.”

Mike Wanous, dean of faculty, said whenever the university has transition in a full-time faculty position, administration evaluates whether or not the position should be replaced.

Administration analyzes data such as credit hours generated by the department and number of majors, and takes into account contribution to teaching in the core curriculum and in the major.

“Part of valuing the liberal arts is valuing our faculty who teach and being able to pay them fairly and give them raises,” Wanous said. “That involves a trade-off between the number of faculty members and how much we have to compensate them as they deserve.” 

He said it is “always a careful decision.”

“In the cases of the history and English positions,” Wanous said,  “we have decided to replace these full-time positions with part-time positions. In both situations, we were able to hire outstanding faculty members for next year. ”

Students have been upset about the changes despite Wanous’s optimistic view on the matter. In particular, history majors have not been pleased about the decision to not hire a full-time faculty member for the department despite having a large department.

” Many people today, including here at HU, refuse to see the importance of history. Schools decide it isn’t important and funnel resources to other departments,” Junior Emily Vander Bent commented.

She expressed that “countless new students” return because of the way the faculty has made them feel. She believes the choice to not hire a new full-time professor will not only hurt the history department, but the school entirely.

Vander Bent doesn’t believe the changes will stop the remaining professors from caring for students, but it will make it more straining.

“They will run themselves ragged before they let the university negatively impact our education or their ability to be available to us,” she said.

Many students, including Vander Bent do not believe the university recognizes the excellence coming from the departments affected.

“We are hard workers and already making an impact in the world because of what we are being taught in our history classes,” she said. “The two scholarship winners from Huntington’s Alpha Chi chapter, one for region and one for national, are both history majors.”

Only time will tell how the changes will affect the departments and students. For more of a student’s prospective flip to the Opinions page.

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