At a prestigious university like Duke, one would not expect academic departments to find themselves in a faculty shortage of unusual proportions—but such has been the case this fall.
Multiple departments have struggled finding instructors for classes as a large percentage of faculty members from certain departments are on leave.
But smaller departments, such as the Department of Germanic Languages and Literature and the Department of Classical Studies, have minimal cushioning to soften the blow of faculty departures.
The Department of Classical Studies has taken a hit as well, with seven of 11 professors away or teaching a reduced load.
“All of these leaves happened for good reasons, and we are happy to have faculty getting recognized for their achievements,” said Peter Burian, professor and chair of classical studies. “We’ve felt the loss of professors quite a bit, but we’re doing our best with limited flexibility.”
Despite the classics department’s best efforts, many students are feeling restricted as a result of fewer courses being offered. “The number of professors on leave really made it difficult planning my schedule for the fall,” senior Andrew Blackburne wrote in an e-mail. “This semester there were only two 100-level classes that I had not taken, and because of a few scheduling conflicts, I was effectively prohibited from taking a single upper-level classics course.”
Frustration with the limited courses has been rivaled by students’ disappointment that they are missing opportunities to learn from seasoned professors.
“The grad students are very good, but not personally interacting with faculty in the department has made me re-evaluate declaring for a classical studies major,” sophomore Gregory Westcott wrote in an e-mail. “I can only hope that the course offerings will increase next semester... or I face the risk of declaring for a major in a department from which I’ve never had a professor.”
I wonder how often this scenario is played out in other departments ... someone with a pile of time on their hands should correlate the rise and fall of numbers of majors in Classics to the 'leave' schedule ...