Unusual, to be sure--such form letters are normally sent around during the Yule period, so what's up, with one in May? Something special going on? Oh, yeah, I guess one might say that's so.
As of the beginning of the Fall 1992 semester, the department of anthropology at San Diego State University will no longer exist. The careers of 14 full-time tenured faculty members (12 professors, one associate professor and one assistant professor) suddenly fried to a crisp at the stroke of a pen. Two enthusiastic and popular temporary lecturers dumped at the entrance to the university. The future of 80 graduate students at various stages on the way to an MA put on hold, not to mention the 125 anthropology undergraduates who must pull up stakes and decamp to another major, if not another university. And what of the prospects for the devoted secretarial staff, which also hangs on a very thin thread?
The same fate struck several other departments at SDSU: religious studies, German and Russian were also wiped out; most of the French department done away with; seven tenured sociology professors released, as well as at least 14 chemistry profs. The entire School of Family Studies (a big chunk of people) eliminated suddenly. Geology gone.
News of the casualties filters in like reports from a battlefield or the epicenter of a fiery earthquake. The term executions seems somehow appropriate, and the final body count won't be known for a while.
And we haven't even begun to consider the fates of the family members of these outcasts. The demographic statistics for this devastation aren't available yet, but perhaps the anthropology faculty isn't terribly different from the other decimated departments. The average age for the anthropologists just released into a nonexistent "job market" is well over 50.
Two families have children of early elementary school age or younger; both of these families, at least, depend on the single income of the faculty member. It is uncertain, at the moment, how many houses will have to be sold as a consequence of the sudden impossibility of meeting mortgage payments. It's not possible at this point to estimate the bloody toll of the May Massacre at SDSU.
It feels like the academic equivalent to Pearl Harbor or Dresden or My Lai.
GARY O. ROLLEFSON
Ex-Professor of Anthropology