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UChicago: don’t lay off “foster mother” and department anchor, Alicia Czaplewski

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The Department of South Asian Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago is arguably the world's greatest intellectual home for the study of South Asia, where the best minds receive the warmest welcome. It is no secret that SALC's current golden age has been made possible by its superhuman departmental administrator and “Foster Mother" to generations of grad students and scholars alike: Alicia Czaplewski, winner of the 2011 Marlene F. Richman Award for Excellence in Service and Dedication to Students.

On May 25th, after twenty-two years of dedication to the university and fifteen to SALC, Alicia was suddenly informed her services were no longer needed.

SALC faculty make no secret that their ability to lead the field depends in large part on Alicia. Top prospective grad students who face tough choices and easily might choose a rival are swayed by Alicia's warmth, wisdom, and ability to foster real relationships between faculty and students. As SALC's increasingly international cohorts has grown and as the steady stream of academic visitors from abroad has increased, Alicia’s deep knowledge and experience ensures the department runs without a hitch.    

"Shared services" was the reason given for Alicia's layoff. SALC is now to share an administrator with Slavic: from 200% administrative support to 25%. The decision was taken without any input from faculty

“Shared services” has been discredited at other higher ed institutions as detrimental to faculty, students, and staff alike, while achieving questionable financial benefits that are marginal at best. UChicago should not gamble the reputation of this university, our students’ futures, and the livelihoods of staff on such a dubious scheme.  

Please join me in calling on UChicago to reconsider this decision so that SALC can continue to flourish and maintain its reputation of excellence, with Alicia remaining in her rightful home. Share your own Alicia story in the comments, and please forward this to anyone who might add their own.

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