Response to Chancellor’s comments in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram

After receiving several notes of concern from our members, we wanted to clarify the depth of budget cuts to the academic mission of TCU, so our executive committee wrote a response to Chancellor Boschini’s comments in an interview published in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. Our response is posted here, and the full text is below:

As faculty in our TCU chapter of the American Association of University Professors, we appreciate the work of Mac Engel in his interview with Chancellor Victor Boschini published in the Star-Telegram last week. Chancellor Boschini has done an admirable job of building TCU’s national profile in his 18 years of service, but we felt the need to clarify some of his statements about the academic enterprise here.

While the 30% cut to our retirements stung, costing us each thousands of dollars in our annual compensation, the larger issue is that faculty and staff have been asked to bear the brunt of deep cuts to the academic mission. Chancellor Boschini said “we didn’t release one freakin’ person from TCU” last year, but he neglected to mention the elimination of about 6% of full-time faculty lines for the upcoming year. These are largely going unfilled after 27 professors took early retirement incentives and while lecturers on year-to-year contracts were not renewed. We all know faculty and staff colleagues who have worked at TCU for years who are being let go in May, not to be replaced, with the rest of us left to take on their duties. The library, the academic heart of the university, has lost almost 20% of its staff and more than half of its book budget.

And while it may be true that TCU lost $50 million last year, we also ran an average budget surplus of $104 million a year from 2010-19, according to TCU’s Form 990 filings with the IRS. Last year, the chancellor justified turning down $5.4 million in CARES Act relief by saying we were a rich school. We unveiled a $113 million addition of luxury suites to the football stadium last summer, and the university trumpeted $677 million raised for the endowment in the fall. Yet at the same time, the university cut $20 million from the academic affairs budget. A university with our resources should not be eliminating faculty and staff jobs, cutting our compensation, and gutting valuable academic resources such as the library.

We were thrilled to hear Chancellor Boschini say that TCU is “not going to reduce tenured positions.” Indeed, tenured faculty play an important role in the culture and community of a university, as our pursuit of scholarship directly impacts the quality of instruction that we offer students. But so far, most retiring tenured professors are not being replaced. On the rare occasions that they have been replaced, it is largely with visiting one-year positions or untenured instructors. In recent years when a tenured full professor has retired, we have often been told to replace that person with a non-tenurable instructor –  or that our campus will lose the faculty position entirely. 

TCU has weathered challenging times in the past, and we should be positioned to take on new challenges in the years ahead. Chancellor Boschini deserves much credit for our current position and our direction. But he should be honest about the cuts to the academic mission of the university. TCU’s long-term strategic plan lists strengthening the academic profile and reputation of the university as our first action item. Cutting full-time faculty and staff positions while adding 1,000 new students is not a feasible way to achieve this goal.

TCU is a success story not just because of our football program. We, as faculty, have dedicated years of our lives to serving students and the TCU community. Our mission – “to educate individuals to think and act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community” – is more than just a mouthful. It guides our work every day. We ask that Chancellor Boschini and the board of trustees show a similar commitment to us, by telling the truth and fully funding our academic mission. 

Published by Chip Stewart

Professor of Journalism at Texas Christian University. J.D. (University of Texas), LL.M. (University of Missouri), Ph.D. (University of Missouri). Former head of the Law & Policy Division at AEJMC. Founding editor of Community Journalism. Author of "Media Law Through Science Fiction: Do Androids Dream of Electric Free Speech?" (Routledge, 2020); co-author of "The Law of Public Communication" (11th ed., Routledge, 2020); editor of "Social Media and the Law" (2nd ed., Routledge, 2017).

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