Message from the President and Executive Committee
October 8, 2017
Dear President Stanley, Provost Bernstein, and Dean Kopp:
We write as the Executive Committee of the American Association for Italian Studies (AAIS) to express our deep concern over cuts to the Humanities at Stony Brook University. In particular, we are gravely troubled by the recent non-renewal of three tenure-track faculty members in the College of Arts and Sciences.
As tenured professors who work at diverse public universities (Northern Arizona University, The Ohio State University, the College of William & Mary, and Wayne State University), and who serve as deans, chairs, associate chairs, and faculty members, we are well aware of the kinds of budgetary pressures and other institutional challenges that Stony Brook University faces. We also feel very strongly that these pressures require us all to defend the integrity of humanities programs with more vigor than ever, and indeed to work to strengthen studies of comparative literature and culture, of migration, gender, race and ethnicity. In a year marked by xenophobic violence on the national stage and the recension of the DACA program, it is our responsibility as university faculty to bolster cross-cultural communication, innovative reasoning, and a deep awareness of cultural history. Some of the programs Stony Brook plans to cut are those best positioned to do this kind of critical work.
Most urgently, in the face of financial constraints, it is imperative to protect the institution of tenure, along with the academic freedom and professional stability that it affords. Only faculty with such freedom and stability can develop and sustain programs of innovative research. Failing to follow the recommendation of a department, and its chair, to renew these three contracts risks weakening the tenure process across the university, and threatens it beyond Stony Brook as well. Although budgetary pressures are common at state institutions, austerity measures must not undermine the integrity of academic programs. We feel strongly that, at a university, the kinds of difficult choices made under financial pressures must still respect the intellectual priorities of the institution.
At an institution whose diversity plan celebrates cultural awareness, and where a Global Studies program promises to teach students about the values of interconnectedness, the work being conducted by the tenure-track scholars being dismissed seems, ironically, to be precisely the kind of work that helps the university realize its mission.
The three faculty being dismissed are pursuing critical research in areas that will be increasingly important as globalization continues to spur migration. They specialize, respectively, in works by Southeast Asian American authors and refugee artists, Middle Eastern women writers in French and Arabic, and Italian migrant writers and authors from
the Horn of Africa. In Italian studies, we can affirm that research in migration studies is cutting-edge, and is positioned to become increasingly important as Italy continues to be on the frontlines of wave after wave of migration to Europe. Indeed, each of these faculty members was pursuing—and achieving—precisely the innovative and productive scholarship that we expect from faculty in tenure-track positions.
We urge you to reconsider your decision to dismiss these three outstanding scholars, and hope that you will consider the alarming precedent set when tenure-track faculty can no longer rely on being evaluated on the merits of their scholarship.
Valerio Ferme, President
Executive Committee, American Association for Italian Studies (AAIS)
Previous messages from the President and Executive Committee:
We write as members of the executive of the American Association of Italian Studies to express our deep concern about the decision by our newly elected president to place restrictions and holds on the entry into the United States of many immigrants and visitors who have dutifully obtained permission to come live in or visit the country.
- The AAIS Executive Committee