Mills College announces revised financial stabilization plan

By and
June 29, 2017

(Photos courtesy of Mills College) Under the financial stabilization plan approved by the Mills College Board of Trustees, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies Vivian Chin (left) has been laid off, as well as Professor of Philosophy Marc Joseph (top right), Professor of Physics David Keeports (bottom right) and Professor of History Wah Cheng, (not pictured).

(Photos courtesy of Mills College)
Under the financial stabilization plan approved by the Mills College Board of Trustees, Associate Professor of Ethnic Studies Vivian Chin (left) has been laid off, as well as Professor of Philosophy Marc Joseph (top right), Professor of Physics David Keeports (bottom right) have been laid off. Professor of History Wah Cheng and Professor of English Stephen Ratcliffe (both not pictured) also received notices of their dismissal.

Following weeks of meetings, letters and discussions, Mills College officials have revealed some details of the impact the school’s financial emergency will have on the community.

On Tuesday, June 27, the president’s office released a statement announcing a revised financial stabilization plan (FSP) approved by the Mills College Board of Trustees in a closed meeting on June 26.

The finalized FSP contains some key updates from the original draft version, including the retention of some faculty and programs, while others are still set to be eliminated under the approved plan.

The programs to be retained and revised include art history, global humanities and critical thought, and history as well as minors in religious studies, philosophy, Spanish and Spanish American studies, and French and transcultural Francophone studies. The latter two are set to be restructured to involve fewer credits and lead to a certificate. A minor in Chinese that leads to a certificate is also set to be added.

Programs set to be eliminated are the majors in Latin American studies and philosophy, and minors in physics, creative writing in Spanish, and government, as well as graduate programs in math and translation.

Changes that are still pending in the current plan include the possible elimination of the major in international relations and the minor is Asian studies.

It is not clear from the FSP what Mills faculty are being cut, but according to María De Los Ángeles Dominguez, Alumni of Color Committee co-chair and an organizer of the Vivian stays at Mills campaign, five professors have been confirmed as being laid off under the current plan, at least most of whom are tenured.

  • Vivian Chin, class of 1989 and associate professor of ethnic studies
  • Wah Cheng, professor of history
  • David Keeports, professor of physics
  • Marc Joseph, professor of philosophy
  • Stephen Ratcliffe, professor of English

“I am outraged, heartbroken, disappointed, and ashamed that tenure is essentially dead at Mills College,” Dominguez said. “This is an injustice and I call for restorative justice, especially for the ethnic studies department and faculty for being unfairly targeted.”

Courtney Koetz, a student of Keeports’, wrote an email expressing concern over what laying off Keeports and eliminating the physics minor at Mills means for women and non-binary people interested in fields like physics, which are heavily dominated by cisgender men.

“By eliminating physics while simultaneously reducing the number of faculty qualified to teach physical chemistry, Mills College is telling us female/non-binary science majors that we are not eligible competitors in the boys’ club of the physical sciences,” Koetz said. “Think about how this in turn affects female/non-binary empowerment both in STEM and in general.”

For actions to increase revenues, the proposed tuition reset does not appear in the final version of the FSP, which could be because it was initially planned for the somewhat more distant future. Retirement 403(b) matching will be temporarily reduced to zero percent with a goal restoration back to nine percent after 2020. Other measures planned to increase revenue include a partnership with the Peralta Community College District, recruiting efforts in the athletics department, and the development of an executive education program.

As for the remaining six professors, many were offered retirement. Professor of Journalism Sarah Pollock, adviser to The Campanil, has announced she will teach her final classes this fall and retire thereafter. Professor of Music Roscoe Mitchell, Associate Professor of Philosophy Jay Gupta, Associate Professor of Women’s, Gender and Sexuality studies Judith Bishop, have not received notice of layoffs under the current plan.

Jillian Mosley, the student representative of the board of trustees, who is a global humanities and art history double major, is not sure on how the final plan will take Mills out of its current financial crisis, especially with the lack of numbers.

“I’m concerned about how the administration is expecting the three-year plan to pan out,” Mosley said. “I would like a deeper explanation to how they are arriving at the number. I’m struggling to see how this action will take us on a positive turn.”

Community meetings will be held next week for students, staff and faculty. The meeting for faculty will be held Wednesday, July 5, from noon to 1 p.m., followed by a meeting for staff from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. the same day. The meeting for students is set for Thursday, July 6, from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. All three will be in the gathering hall at GSB.


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