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18 UNH lecturers received non-renewal letters over winter break

Union Leader Correspondent

January 19. 2018 1:28PM
UNH is not renewing contracts of 18 lecturers. (KIMBERLEY HAAS/Union Leader Correspondent)

DURHAM — The contracts of 18 lecturers in the College of Liberal Arts at the University of New Hampshire were not renewed, and one affected man says he’s heartbroken after receiving the news in the mail over winter break.

English lecturer Nathan Webster, of Stratham, a veteran who served during Operation Desert Storm and then worked as a photojournalist in Iraq, teaches first-year writing and introduction to creative nonfiction, he said.

“I’m the only war veteran in the English Department, and the letter I got (just a letter, no call, no personal contact at all) was dismissive and blunt and the reasons given are contradictory and unclear,” Webster said via email Friday.

“The letter claimed a severe budget shortfall but a new announcement said it was to enhance program strength by ensuring the highest degree in the field,” he wrote.

A copy of the letter Webster received this week from Dean Heidi Bostic said his employment ends May 18.

“The reason for this non-renewal is that the College of Liberal Arts is currently confronted with a substantial deficit,” Bostic wrote. “With future programmatic needs forecast in mind, we have been forced to make some painful reductions and strategic realignments in teaching faculty.”

UNH spokesman Erika Mantz said Friday the university takes seriously the need to be fiscally responsible, while keeping programs competitive and of the highest quality.

“We continually evaluate student and market demand for all our programs. Some of these contracts were not renewed due to declining enrollments; others were not renewed as the result of a desire to enhance program strength by ensuring that faculty members have the highest terminal degree in their field.

“The non-renewals do not result in the loss of any programs and will allow UNH to ensure our students receive the highest quality instruction,” Mantz said in an email.

Mantz said the staff reductions are not layoffs.

Mantz said seven of the affected lecturers teach English as a Second Language, which caters to international students.

Six teach languages, literatures and cultures.

Two teach political science, one is in education and one lectures in history, she said.

Webster is the one person affected in the English Department.

Catherine Moran, president of UNH Lecturers United, said Friday some of those affected have terminal degrees and the university never required others to obtain terminal degrees to keep their jobs.

Moran said two or three of the lecturers have worked at the university for 20 years.

“These people are seasoned teaching professionals,” Moran said. “We’re deeply concerned about what this represents. We’re shocked about this. ... This loss of experience and talent is a complete blow.”

Moran said union members are concerned about the effect the reductions will have on students.

The contract of the only lecturer teaching Arabic was not renewed, while two of three lecturers in the French department did not have their contract renewed, she said.

“We’ve not heard yet what the plan will be for staffing these programs,” Moran said.

Webster, who has been in the English Department 11 years, said he is willing to fight to get officials at the university to change their minds.

The spring semester begins at UNH Tuesday.

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