Stop Canisius from Firing Professors

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Amidst the worst health crisis in our lifetime, the administration of Canisius College has mounted a duplicitous public campaign, ostensibly siding with protests for justice and equality while at the same time leading a secret push for the unjust firing of its own faculty members.

As an institution founded in the Jesuit tradition, in the past, Canisius has prided itself in grounding students with a strong education in the Humanities and in particular in Philosophy and Theology. As a moral demand, Canisius has also claimed to center the values of care for the whole person, a commitment to service and social justice. We are therefore deeply troubled by the recent decision of the Board of Trustees that administration should fire professors in many departments including Classics, Art History, English, Religious Studies, History, Philosophy and other departments constituting the backbone of liberal arts education. Across the College in all three Schools, professors both with and without tenure are being threatened with lay-offs.

Firing faculty for no other reason than the financial bottom-line of a not-for-profit organization is never justifiable but even less so in the face of a growing administrative bloat: in 2020, Canisius has twice as many people at vice-presidential levels as it had in 2008. If the College were so concerned about its financial wellbeing, why fire professors, its productive force, rather than administrators—its primary financial ballast?

With the unethical firing of professors underway, we are extremely worried that soon enough, our beloved college will turn into a corporate management suite with more administrators than actual educators—the signs of this sinister transition which do tremendous harm to students, are already on the horizon. We watched the administration unceremoniously dismantle the German major at Canisius two years ago despite the fact that no other program has generated more Fulbright scholars and despite the university’s historic ties to the American-German community of Buffalo, but we cannot remain silent while the administration disbands key majors and fires excellent teachers in the Humanities. We know this is just the beginning of the end of liberal arts tradition at Canisius—the very core of its existence. If these cuts are carried out, this will most likely mark the end of Canisius College itself, and certainly any integrity it once had.

Any financially-troubled business organization has a plan in place to investigate the causes of financial distress and change course accordingly. This often entails a critical evaluation of corporate leadership, with CEOs and other top executives being swiftly replaced for inadequately managing their organizations. Yet for all of the steps towards corporatization that the College and its Trustees have taken in the past ten years, none of the common-sense business rules, such as letting go of the highest-paid employees first to remedy financial trouble, have been followed. Thus, Canisius is slowly but surely turning into a monstrous creature of higher ed, combining the worst practices of business and non-business.

We, current and former members of the Canisius community, and other concerned citizens, have no confidence in the leadership of the College and believe it needs drastic change.

Therefore, we demand that the Board of Trustees take immediate action to:

1) halt the unethical dismissal of Canisius professors,

2) remove the current president of the College,

3) initiate a thorough audit of the number, functions, and pay of each of the Canisius leadership roles, and share this audit with the full faculty of Canisius,

4) change the leadership roles within the Board of Trustees, and

5) practice shared governance as defined by the American Association of University Professors (AAUP).

Many Canisius alumni are pledging not to donate to alma mater unless these steps are taken.

Professorial work is subject to rigorous annual review, yet, by seizing the bulk of decision-making power, the administrative top earners at Canisius have gained complete immunity and made sure there is no mechanism in place to hold them accountable. We stand alongside our beloved Canisius faculty and demand a stop to the corruption, misconduct and lawlessness of the Board of Trustees and administration.

Fire administrators, not professors!