By: Ellie Gofman  | 

In Reversal of University’s Original Decision, Several SCW Jewish Studies Adjuncts Rehired for Fall 2021

Several Jewish Studies adjunct professors at Stern College for Women (SCW) were told they will be returning for Fall 2021 after previously being notified by email on March 17 that they would not be rehired, The Commentator has learned. 

The Commentator was in communication with two professors, both of whom received the original email and spoke under the condition of anonymity. Near the end of April, the two professors were informed that they would be returning in the fall. One added that he will be teaching two courses at SCW.

The university has not responded to The Commentator’s repeated inquiries regarding which adjuncts will not be rehired, why they reversed the initial decision and what the original reasoning was behind the move.

On March 18, The Commentator received a tip that adjunct professors in the department — some of whom had been teaching at SCW for several decades — were told via email that they would not be returning for Fall 2021. 

One of those professors described the original email as “very terse and just said that I am no longer being offered courses at Stern College.” He added that he was “not aware that the 'dismissal' email was coming and a formal period of notice, although not required, would have been a menschlich [kind] thing to do.” He received an apology after reaching out about how the news was communicated.

Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Dr. Selma Botman commented at the time that the university “do[es] not comment on personnel matters.”  Every semester they “review the needs for adjunct professors based on the courses being offered.” She added, “We are working to provide our faculty with the opportunity to teach on both campuses when possible and appropriate.” 

At the Town Hall held by the Rebecca Ivry Department of Jewish Studies on April 21 and April 22, Jewish Studies Chair Dr. Deena Rabinovich was asked about the decision to not rehire adjunct professors. “We have adjuncts that are coming to join us,” she explained. “We also have been collaborating a lot with the faculty uptown [at Yeshiva College], and we’ve been benefiting from a lot of the faculty coming downtown so we’re using our full-time faculty and filling in with adjuncts as we have done in every single semester.”

The department also announced at the Town Hall the end of the “core” model for Jewish Studies at SCW, a change in the credit value of the Jewish studies classes — with Jewish studies classes now worth two credits instead of three — among other changes.

Until this meeting, the university had not made any public announcements regarding the rehiring of Jewish Studies adjunct professors. 

This shuffle of professors and adjustments of the curriculum follows a series of changes by the university regarding Jewish Studies.

The Commentator recently reported that YU is planning to eliminate its in-person Hebrew programs for Wilf and Beren students, transitioning them to an online, asynchronous model beginning in Fall 2022. In January 2021, the Robert M. Beren Department of Jewish Studies at Yeshiva College was dissolved, with Jewish History and Jewish Philosophy professors moving to the History and Philosophy departments, respectively. The Department of Bible, Hebrew, and Near Eastern Studies was subsequently formed.

Regarding the adjustments, Abby Goldberg (SCW ‘23), a sophomore at YU, remarked, “I’m scared for what all these changes mean for the future of Jewish studies at Stern. Will these decisions be followed by more cuts to Jewish studies just because it’s easy?”

“The reality is that the university is cutting back on Jewish Studies courses,” the aforementioned anonymous professor said, “and surely this is a message which will not encourage students to attend YU when they can go to a much more economically viable college and get Jewish studies courses from many other sources, including … I am not sure if this will be to the benefit of the college in the future and surely the whole raison d’etre of YU is to promote and increase Jewish study and knowledge.”

After discovering he would be rehired, the professor told The Commentator, “My comments are still relevant in that the message from YU should be a positive one regarding Jewish studies, which is the main reason that most students actually go to YU.”

Some students expressed support for the university retaining its adjunct professors. Ayelet Topp (SCW ‘23) said, “One of my favorite parts of Stern is the diverse options for Jewish Studies classes. The adjunct Jewish studies faculty add so much, giving more class options to fit everyone’s interests, and I really hope Stern recognizes this.”

This is a developing story.


Photo Caption: Stern College for Women

Photo Credit: Yeshiva University