Columbian College denies funding to departments for faculty hires

The Columbian College of Arts and Sciences denied Film Studies and dozens of other departments and programs funding to hire additional faculty for next year.

CCAS granted only 10 out of 36 requests from programs and departments within the largest college at GW for funding to hire additional visiting professors for the 2006-2007 academic year, said Diana Lipscomb, associate dean for Faculty and Research in the Columbian College.

The CCAS’s Film Studies program is one of many departments feeling the negative effects of budget constraints and a denied request. The program does not employ any visiting professors.

“There was no intention to slash the budget for Film Studies, it was just a resource issue,” Lipscomb said.

She added that the Columbian College receives and grants about the same number of requests to hire visiting professors each year and that denying about 25 requests annually is indicative of the school’s need to manage its budget effectively.

“Just like you do with your own budget we need to decide where to put money, where the greatest demand is and where the money will do the most good,” Lipscomb said.

GW’s Film Studies program applied for visiting professorship funding both this year and last year, Lipscomb said, adding that the Film Studies program was denied its request in both instances. The Film Studies program’s last full-time professor, Ranjan Chhibber left the position and the program in 2004.

The Columbian College also cut funding the program uses to pay the salary of Jay Lorenz, a part-time Film Studies faculty member.

Lorenz said his salary was once considerable, and now it is “basically adjunct’s pay,” though he declined to comment on an exact figure. Lorenz, who was once considered a visiting professor, added that he might not return to his part-time faculty position next year if his salary does not increase.

Lipscomb said it is unfortunate that the film studies program rests largely on one professor and the interest of a limited number of students. The program teaches more than 250 students each semester. In order for the program to be successful in the future, Lipscomb said “there needs to be a push by the academic leadership, by the faculty.”

Lorenz said he considered not returning to the University in light of his decreased salary last year, and added that, “I thought I could just leave, but there were so many kids I wanted to see. I’ve become very paternal toward (my students).”

Continuing work in the film industry has allowed Lorenz to sustain himself financially and continue teaching for GW despite what he said he considers a low pay rate. Lorenz added that if he does decide to leave, he suspects it will be difficult to find another professor to replace him.

Because Lorenz teaches all four of the program’s core classes – Film Theory, Genres of Film, History of World Cinema I, History of World Cinema II – and the Columbian College denied the program’s request for another professorship, if Lorenz did decide to leave GW, the program might disband.

Director of the film studies program Peter Rollberg said that without more money, the film studies program cannot be sustained for very long.

“Professor Lorenz is a very valued faculty member (and) we are grateful he is loyal to the program and to his students,” Rollberg said.

Rollberg added that he believes the film studies program receives such little funding as a secondary effect of the University’s strong interest in research.

“We (produce) little or no output in research, so we are left out and I don’t think that’s right,” Rollberg said. “Student interest, predilection – (these) should have more impact.”

A Facebook group called “Proud Film Minors” has formed to address student concerns surrounding the fate of the film studies program at GW. It has 77 members.

Lorenz said film students would not be the only ones to benefit from re-funding the program.

“There was an editorial in the New York Times that said that a film studies degree is the new MBA,” Lorenz said. “It’s a hot degree right now. GW could capitalize on it in a big way.”

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