Letter to the Editor: Want to retain students? Retaining faculty helps!

Every semester around this time, faculty receive an email from the associate academic dean’s office asking us to identify struggling students; this allows our advising body to conduct the very necessary work of supporting these students in hopes of better retaining them.

Meanwhile, two valued faculty members have confirmed their departure from Guilford College to take positions elsewhere: Robert Malekoff from sports studies and Amal Khoury from peace and conflict studies.

While we are delighted for our colleagues who are pursuing exciting career opportunities, we are deeply saddened and troubled by this loss. To put it bluntly, it is nothing short of tragic for Guilford to lose an excellent and beloved teacher like Bob, one whose contributions to the scholarly community and presence in the news help Guilford raise its profile, and a stellar teacher and nationally and an internationally recognized scholar like Amal, the only tenure-track member of peace and conflict studies, a department at the very heart of Guilford’s Quaker heritage and essential in making Guilford unique and distinctive.

Then we thought about others who recently left — Karen Hayes and Angie Moore, for example, both winners of the Bruce Stewart Award for Teaching Excellence — and we wondered: what could the College have done to fight for these irreplaceable individuals? What infrastructure do we have in place to keep and support our incredible faculty?

Faculty turnover is a natural part of any institution, but so is dropout among students. So, in the interest of retention, shouldn’t we also work harder to retain our faculty, if only for the sake of our students, who consistently cite their relationships with such outstanding faculty as the main thing that keeps them here? A main reason they give back when they graduate?

Faculty retention is part and parcel of student recruitment, retention and giving. Let’s work as hard on the former as we do on the latter. Let’s support all the people — faculty, staff and students — and programs that make Guilford special, distinctive and ideal.

There are two main takeaways here.

Guilford faculty are amazing people.  Our humility belies the many ways in which our faculty are powerhouses in the classroom, in their scholarship, in the world. We have options, but we choose to come here.  And we stay — despite the lack of support and inadequate resources, despite the abysmal salaries — because we believe in the promise and ideal of Guilford College.

But when that very ideal is compromised, our core values undermined, the College risks losing all — there’s only so much this community can take.

Department Chair and Associate Professor of English Diya Abdo

Department Chair and Associate Professor of Political Science Maria Rosales