Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, it has become clear that the administration of President Katherine Rowe consistently prioritizes profit over the well-being of the College of William and Mary community. Nowhere is this fact more evident than in the College’s decision to launch a $55 million fundraising campaign for athletics while simultaneously citing budget concerns to justify the layoffs of non-tenure eligible professors.
When news broke over winter break that the College was considering laying off a group of non-tenure eligible faculty members because of an Arts & Sciences budget cut, students and staff alike rallied around their peers. Over 1,500 people signed a petition calling for the College to protect these professors, dozens of people attended the William & Mary Workers’ Union’s rally in February and community members continue to share their outrage over these layoffs on social media. Three months later, the College has still not announced any plans to protect non-tenure eligible faculty members and it is still unclear how many of the 17 at-risk professors will be losing their jobs. When community members reached out to administrators to express support for non-tenure eligible faculty, we were repeatedly told that the College simply does not have enough money to guarantee that all 17 contracts will be renewed.
Imagine our surprise when an email popped up in every College-affiliated inbox last week announcing the new “All In” fundraising campaign, which seeks to raise $55 million for athletics programs at the College. If the College can launch such a massive fundraising campaign for athletics, why can’t they do the same to protect non-tenure eligible faculty?
Let’s crunch the numbers. According to the press release announcing the “All In” campaign, there are 500 student athletes at William & Mary. This means that the $55 million goal of the campaign comes out to $110,000 per student athlete. What would happen if the College committed to raising $110,000 for each of the 17 at-risk non-tenure eligible faculty members? Not only would this easily cover their salaries for another year (the average annual salary for William & Mary faculty is $77,286 according to 2019 data from OpenPayrolls.com), but the College would only need to raise a total of $1,870,000. That’s a minuscule fraction, less than 4%, of the “All In” campaign’s fundraising goal. Clearly, the College has the resources to protect our professors. So why do they continue to drag their feet on this important issue while putting so much attention on athletics programs?
At the William & Mary Workers’ Union’s rally last month, professor Fabian Arzuaga said that American institutions of higher learning have become indistinguishable from business enterprises. That is exactly why the College is launching a massive fundraising campaign for athletics but refuses to do the bare minimum for its faculty. Protecting the contracts of professors who teach theatre, Arabic studies, feminist political theory and Latinx literature would enrich the College’s curriculum and go a long way toward making our school a more inclusive place. Unfortunately, protecting these contracts would not help the administration turn a profit. On the other hand, selling tickets to athletic events and begging wealthy athletics alumni for more donations allows administrators to continue making six-figure salaries while building fancy new spaces like the Alumni House, which they can use to lobby donors for even more money. That is why the College has no interest in mobilizing their almost limitless resources to protect non-tenure eligible faculty.
To be clear, student athletes are not at fault for this discrepancy. Their passions have been commodified by administrators who are similarly disrespecting and disregarding the scholarly passions of non-tenure eligible faculty. President Rowe’s administration has made it clear that they value profit over people, and that will not change without consistent pressure from students, athletes, staff, faculty and alumni from every corner of the College community.
Aidan White ‘23 is a public policy major and a sociology minor. He is involved in Shakespeare in the Dark and the William & Mary Mock Trial Team, and is also a member of the Young Democratic Socialists and the Sinfonicron Light Opera Company. Email Aidan at firstname.lastname@example.org.