‘My Teaching Days Are Over’: Loyola Professors Leave Due to University Buyouts

Isabella Falsetti | The Phoenix80 professors, including Dunn, Miller and Allee plan to retire at the end of the year due to the university’s most recent buyout program which was announced at the beginning of the school year.

On any day, the halls of Mundelein Center for Fine and Performing Arts are buzzing with professors and students. But come this May, some of Mundelein’s offices will be empty as 80 professors retire —  the result of a large staff-buyout program the university introduced last year, The Phoenix reported

Loyola first-year Catherine Mudd was at Loyola professor Marilyn Dunn’s office hours when she said she asked her what she does when she’s not teaching. 

“She talked about how she would spend her summers in Italy doing research on women as art patrons,” Mudd, 18, said. “She said she would spend hours in archives just researching. She’s like a detective.”

Mudd, a biochemistry major, said this was the moment she knew Dunn would be her favorite professor. 

“It was so inspiring to see that much passion from something that I had never thought about before,” Mudd said. 

Dunn is one of the long-time professors planning to retire at the end of this semester, the result of a heavily criticized buyout program the university offered last year. 

Loyola offered tenured faculty 60 years or older and who have taught continuously for 10 or more years at Loyola two-times their annual salary to retire at the end of the year partly in an effort to save money, The Phoenix reported. Of the 80 professors retiring, 47 of them will be coming from Loyola’s College of Arts and Sciences (CAS). 

Dunn has taught at Loyola the past 39 years, she said. When she’s not traveling to Italy for research in the summer, she can be found leading a class field trip to the Art Institute of Chicago or in Galvin Auditorium lecturing 300 first-year interdisciplinary honors students on the architecture of gothic cathedrals. 

Nicole Ficklin, a first-year environmental studies major who had Dunn in the interdisciplinary honors first-year seminar, said Dunn quickly became one of her favorite professors. 

“I never really saw art in a special way, but she brought art into everything and it really enhanced what we were learning,” Ficklin, 18, said. “It was a difficult class … but she made me feel like I was supposed to be there.”

Despite her retirement, she said she doesn’t plan to stop her passion and has many projects lined up, including speaking at a conference in Rome later this year, writing a book and co-editing a series of books about women artists.  

“I’ll be retiring from teaching and in some ways I’ll miss working with students, but I certainly intend to continue my scholarship and research,” she said. “And I’m looking forward to not having to grade tests.”

Dunn said she was already planning to retire at the end of the year when the buyouts came out. She said while the buyout is a better plan for her, they came at a bad time.

“Some of my colleagues only had a short time to figure out their financial planning and make a life changing decision about retirement,” Dunn said. 

All of Loyola’s schools and colleges, besides Arrupe College, the School of Education and the Institute of Pastoral Studies, will be losing at least one professor. 

Vice Provost and Dean of Loyola Law School Michael Kaufman wouldn’t say exactly who accepted the buyouts or how many professors will leave each department of CAS, citing privacy concerns. 

The replacement of the retiring professors started once the new provost — Norberto Grzywacz — started Feb. 1, according to Kaufman.

Grzywacz was unavailable for comment, according to university spokesperson Sarah Howell. 

Ben Johnson, a Loyola professor and president of Loyola’s chapter of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), said the buyout program felt “like a coup.”

Johnson said the buyouts have the potential to hurt education at Loyola because the departing professors may not be replaced with tenure-track positions — professorships that offer benefits and protection from firing. 

“Substituting tenure track faculty with non-tenure track faculty who teach per class and don’t have the protections of academic freedom means students lose,” Johnson said. 

Kaufman said the type of professors that will be hired will be based on the need of the school at that time, and will be up to the deans of each school. 

Johnson said he’s already reached out to Grzywacz and said the AAUP hopes to work with him to help stabilize the situation the buyouts have created.

Jack Lufkin | The Phoenix

Another professor retiring is philosophy professor Hugh Miller, 64, who said he was also close to retiring soon before the buyouts. After 40 years of teaching — 30 of them at Loyola since he started in 1989 — he said he knew retirement was coming up soon. 

“I’m a writer, researcher and scholar, but my teaching days are over,” Miller said.  

Miller said he discovered his love for philosophy while he was a Yale undergraduate student. He started teaching at Loyola in 1989 and got his Ph.D. from the University of Toronto in 1993, focusing on the philosophy of religion and metaphysics. 

After taking his ethics class, Loyola first-year Nick Ong, a biology major, said Miller was one of his best professors. 

“He made the content relatable to almost any context,” the 19-year-old said. “He had great communication … and a good read on all his students.”

Ong said Miller was a memorable professor from all the stories he would tell during class.

“To try and get [students] not to skip class he told us about how he once went back to teaching only a few days after major surgery,” Ong said.  

Aside from teaching philosophy, Miller said he also taught in Loyola’s interdisciplinary honors program for eight years where he said “[he] loved teaching as a part of a team of instructors.”

While lectures like this will soon be in the past, he said he’s still going to be an active philosopher and said his proudest accomplishment at Loyola are all the graduate students he’s taught that have gone on to be professors themselves. 

Miller said the decision to retire wasn’t an easy one.

“To stop [teaching] is to stop part of your identity, it’s kind of a threat to it,” he said. “As a professor you have a vocation, not just a job — it’s more than just the money.”

In November 2019, The Phoenix published a letter to the editor Miller wrote talking about the reasons for his retirement and criticizing the university administration for implementing the buyouts without much faculty input.

“It’s time for the administration to step up and make the faculty, those leaving, those staying and those just about to come in, real partners in determining the future of this institution,” Miller wrote.  

Jack Lufkin | The Phoenix

Just down the hall from Miller is the office of Mark Allee, a history professor specializing in East Asian and Chinese history. After finishing a Ph.D. at the University of Pennsylvania in 1987, he joined the faculty of Loyola. 

In his 33 years of teaching at Loyola, Allee said one of the highlights was helping expand the history department where he helped create the Asian studies program. 

Even though Allee said his career as a professor is behind him, he said he has a couple of research projects he hopes to finish now. Allee said he was already planning on retiring soon, but decided to leave this year when Loyola gave him an offer he “couldn’t refuse.”

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