College struggles to retain tenure-tracked faculty, raising concerns

Ethan Sieber, News Editor

As the 2022 fall semester got underway, many students saw a surprising number of new faces leading their departments. Staffing and labor shortages are problems that the entire United States has had to contend with since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, and The College of Wooster is no stranger to these struggles. While the College continues to grapple with the issues of how to operate its usual cleaning and dining services in the face of global pandemic, issues with staffing remain apparent. The College ultimately chose to outsource many of its services, to ask for volunteers to help keep campus running and did its best to seek out solutions that minimized the strain and change for students. While these problems may seem to be new by-products of the recent pandemic, others allege that they have deeper roots than initially thought.

Staff and faculty turnover are issues that various departments on campus have seen fairly regularly for the latter part of the decade. While many professors left for personal reasons, such as remaining close to family, others allegedly left due to issues they encountered while at The College of Wooster. Though evidence is anecdotal, these issues included higher compensation from competing colleges and universities, better institutional support and a more inclusive climate for faculty. Each of these factors is believed to have a negative impact on faculty morale.

Professors at the College raised concerns over morale to the Board of Trustees at previous faculty meetings. “We explained the survey that we took of faculty [morale] and walked [the trustees] through some of its more startling findings,” an alleged report published in the agenda of the August meeting for the Joint Faculty Relations and Conference with Trustees Committee read, “There was a sense that perhaps not all of the members of FRC had read the document before our meeting.”

Current faculty turned to the Board of Trustees to address the concerns with both the campus climate and faculty morale, but the results from the Conference Committee dampened hopes of change. “I have always been very impressed by, and grateful for, the dedication and careful stewardship of the College’s trustees,” said Dr. Jennifer Hayward, the current Department Chair of English. “But recent updates from the Conference Committee are concerning.” Dr. Hayward, a faculty member whose department saw unusual turnover over the past decade, asked for a more active role from the trustees regarding these issues. “The trustees, as stewards of the College, have a central role to play in taking those steps [necessary for change],” Dr. Hayward said, “In light of the crisis in faculty and staff retention, I encourage trustees to work with the Conference Committee to address the concerns raised in the report on faculty morale.”

The issues regarding campus climate and compensation packages forced faculty to choose between the community they love and the support that they need. “Staff and faculty alike choose Wooster because we love working with students, and we are working together to do all we can to provide continuity and support to students,” said Dr. Hayward, “…but that work is becoming increasingly difficult.”

Despite these issues, staff, faculty and students remain hopeful that the College of Wooster can  improve to be a more inclusive and supportive environment.

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