There are three main aspects to a professor’s job: teaching, service to the university through serving on committees and their own individual research projects.
The money that funds this last aspect of professorship comes from outside grants and what is known as the Faculty Development Fund. This fund covers summer research, attendance at conferences, professional development, summer stipends and sabbatical funding. However, at yesterday’s faculty meeting, there was a series of changes to what the fund will cover and how this money is issued.
The total for the Faculty Development Fund related expenses in this category has grown a little over $125,000 since 2011 when it was a little less than $650,000. Last year, it was about $775,000. If you were to divide last year's expenses for the fund among the student body, it is under $350 per student per year. For perspective, the health services fee for this year is $140 a semester. The members of this editorial board can get behind supporting faculty in this manner for such a small cost to us because the return is far greater.
That return allows our professors to complete research and be published in the field in which they teach. It allows them to attend conferences regardless of whether or not they are presenting. Even attending a conference allows faculty the benefit of knowing what their peers at other institutions are researching.
Not only does a large and fruitful faculty development fund keep professors knowledgeable about work being done in their field, but it keeps them at DePauw and happy. It draws the best and brightest in their field to the University because they can continue to pursue their research with assurance that the University will support them in this endeavor. Cutting the fund has the potential to send faculty running for the hills.
Now, faculty can only receive up to $600 per year to attend conferences in which they are not presenting. Depending on the location of the conference, this meager allowance might cover travel expenses, but it most certainly won’t cover hotel or meal costs. In order to get more of their conference trips funded, professors must either present or be actively involved, meaning that they moderate or are part of a review board for the presenter’s work.
With multi-million dollar building projects in the works and large raises for top level administrators from one year to the next, this editorial board questions why the Faculty Development Fund was selected for the chopping block, especially when it directly contributes to the education that DePauw’s students receive. A new dining hall or renovated fitness center does not. While these new and improved buildings are nice and luxurious, they aren’t the reason we are here. We’re here to learn from what the faculty can teach us.