Over 100 students, faculty and community members gathered at Emporia State’s Sunken Garden Monday night for a candlelight vigil in support of the 33 faculty and staff who were dismissed last week.

The vigil was planned by members of the sociology department. Five of the faculty and staff who were dismissed have been identified as from social sciences, sociology and criminology.

“I am really, really privileged to work with many amazing staff members,” said Michael Smith, chair of social sciences, sociology and criminology. “Many of them came together in a long series of text messages this weekend to plan this event to honor the 33 folks who were laid off last Thursday, in a decision that shocked all of us.”

The sentiment of the group was unified; people want transparency from ESU’s administration as to why so many faculty and staff were let go.

“We all understand the gravity of the situation,” said Antonina Bauman, associate professor of business administration. "We understand why cuts are necessary. We don't understand why it was done the way it was done.”

Loren Pennington, professor emeritus who has been associated with ESU for 62 years, is disappointed in the cuts to the history and English departments. Pennington thinks that without strong history and English departments, ESU is nothing more than a junior college.

“(Students) are the ones who are getting cheated,” Pennington said. “I mean that. You know why you are getting cheated? Because they are making this university so it’s not a university.”

Students also voiced their frustration with losing their professors and the programs for which those professors were an integral part.

“Michael Morales’ program, the paleontology stuff, is one of the big reasons I came to school here,” said Anna Edmonds, senior earth science major. “I’m never going to get the chance to take a single paleontology class with him.”

Michael Morales, associate professor of physical sciences, was one of the faculty and staff who were dismissed. Morales has worked at ESU for 26 years, and during this time he started the paleontology program which could be one of the programs that is cut. 

Participants also voiced their distaste with University President Ken Hush, comparing him to the past presidents of ESU.

“This place had a president one time, Visser,” said Bill Hartman, who worked at ESU for 50 years. “If you walked past Visser and he didn't say ‘hi’ to you, he owed you a dollar. He damn sure didn't put a fence up in Plumb Hall. That’s got to go!”

Despite the generally negative comments, a  fragment of hope was offered by some of the participants.

“Please remember that we (the faculty) are here to talk to,” said Deborah Hann, associate professor of social sciences, sociology and criminology. “We want to communicate with you. We will share information that we have; it's what we are here for. Please don’t let anyone divide that vital piece of this university.”

Community members also offered hope to the group.

“You (students) have tremendous power,” said Susan Fowler, law librarian and ESU alumna. “You have more of a voice than anyone else on this campus. For the love of god, use it!”

“It’s not over,” Edmonds said. “If you just let them push you down without fighting back or having any sort of hope, they are just going to keep doing it, it will snowball.”


EDITOR'S NOTE: Antonina Bauman's quote was edited for clarity.

Sarah Spicer advises The Bulletin on stories about Emporia State’s framework to dismiss employees. 


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