We are sharing below the faculty letter to President Robinson expressing concern over the replacement of Dr. Bakalian after her retirement. You can read the letters on the same issue by MA and PhD students here. If you are not affiliated with MEMEAC but would like to show your support, please sign the letter of support here.
March 1, 2016
Dear President Robinson:
We the undersigned CUNY faculty are writing to express our grave professional concern about the CUNY Graduate Center’s plans to replace the Associate Director of MEMEAC Dr. Anny Bakalian, after her retirement, with a part-time college assistant. This proposed change in staffing will have a devastating impact on MEMEAC, an intellectual and interdisciplinary home for many faculty in Middle Eastern Studies at CUNY, and on its MA program, which is a nationally and internationally recognized academic success, a prestigious asset, and highly profitable for the Graduate Center.
While we recognize that under any circumstances it would be difficult to find someone with Dr. Bakalian’s talents, expertise and dedication to the position, our experience tells us that for MEMEAC and its MA program to continue to grow and flourish Anny must be replaced with a full-time HEO of similar qualification, able to serve under the same terms of reference. We understand the Graduate Center’s need to cut costs where possible, but feel strongly that trying to save money with this position would be fundamentally counter-productive. With no central line Graduate Center faculty hired to teach in the MA in Middle Eastern Studies program, and with MEMEAC’s director engaged with many other teaching, administrative, and advising tasks, to have the day to day administration, coordination, and advising of the MA program run by a part-timer and perhaps a rotating cast of graduate student helpers would, almost certainly, ensure the slow demise of that program. The duties of the Associate Director are myriad and include working with international students, coordinating teaching and activities across various CUNY campuses, as well as running the MA program and coordinating our offerings with various PhD programs and their students.
More widely, MEMEAC’s academic and cultural credibility, which relates to the all-important matter of fundraising, depends significantly on the nationally and internationally-rated cultural and scholastic events that have become its trademark. These are the dedicated responsibility of the Associate Director, demanding a specialist facility, long and flexible hours, diplomatic and many other related skills, and self-evident contemporary authority likely to be far beyond what can be reasonably required from a part-time college assistant. By making the latter sort of appointment, these value-added but essential functions of MEMEAC will quickly deteriorate, eventually leaving little of what has been achieved during the last fifteen years.
Over and above the MA program, MEMEAC has consistently been one of the top centers in New York for cultural and academic events related to the Middle East. It now easily competes with Columbia and NYU in that regard, despite having fewer resources. MEMEAC’s unique place in New York, without a full-time HEO Associate Director, would quickly be diminished. This would not only have a negative impact on the morale and intellectual lives of CUNY’s MEMEAC affiliated faculty, but would also jeopardize the Center’s attractiveness to future donors, visiting scholars, presenters and performers. Should MEMEAC become less active in this outreach role, other centers, such as ALWAN and the increasingly active New York campus of the Lebanese American University, would quickly take its place, and in relatively close-knit Middle Eastern circles this would soon be widely known, compounding the rate of MEMEAC’s decline.
At a time when the Graduate Center is actively seeking ideas for new MA programs, it defies logic to destabilize one of our most successful and flourishing programs. We urge you to reconsider the decision to replace Dr. Bakalian with a part-time college assistant and respectfully request a meeting at your earliest convenience to further discuss the matter.
52 faculty across 15 CUNY campuses signed this letter, including distinguished professors.