Even prior to news breaking late last week of several faculty likely having their contracts not renewed for the next year, an effort was under way to save Ohio University’s Food Studies certificate program as program leader Theresa Moran reported her contract would not be renewed.
A petition started online to “keep food studies at Ohio University” had garnered 1,830 signatures as of Wednesday morning, attempting to show support for the program, which has been at OU since Moran started it in 2014 (Moran has been an instructor at OU for roughly 17 years).
Moran, an assistant professor and director of the Food Studies theme, said in an interview last month that she will be out of the job, effective May 15. She said she believes that at least 13 other faculty members in other programs will be out of work as of May 15 after finishing their terminal years at OU (meaning they had had their contracts not renewed last year).
Moran added this week that she, along with these other instructors, will be without work “during the height of the pandemic.”
OU spokesperson Carly Leatherwood provided the following statement last month on the discontinuation of OU’s Food Studies theme. (Essentially, the theme included a variety of classes taught mostly by Moran and included a “Food Studies” certificate.)
“The Food Studies certificate grew out of ‘Curricular Themes’ in the College of Arts & Sciences, which were previously discontinued,” Leatherwood said. “Because of budgetary constraints and alignment with the university’s core mission, it is unlikely that the Food Studies certificate program will accept new students after this academic year. The university will ensure that the 10 students currently enrolled in the program will be able to complete their certificates.”
Moran said last month that she believes there was a significant level of interest from students and community members in the program, which involved a variety of courses exploring local, regional and national food systems. The program worked closely with the OU Student Farm on West State Street in Athens, as well.
Moran said 22 students have received a food studies certificate, along with 10 more set to earn it next year. More than 350 people have taken the foundational “Food Matters” course over the past 12 semesters, along with about 300 students taking the “Edible Athens” course. As well, dozens of internships and study-abroad opportunities have been coordinated through the program, Moran said.
“They go out into the world with true, lifelong skills,” Moran said of the students in the certificate program. “They are enriching food systems wherever they go because they had that exposure here. That’s what we were supposed to be doing.”
The petition started online last month argues that it’s important to keep the Food Studies theme going at OU.
“Now more than ever with the COVID pandemic, we need to learn and to think about the food we eat, where it comes from, and how our food choices affect us, our community and the world,” the petition reads. “And Food Studies has proved to be a great way to bring students from all disciplines together in the classroom to study how what we put on our plate affects all aspects of our lives and our planet.”
Jessica Hollis, an assistant professor of instruction in English, is another faculty member at OU whose contract will run out as of May 15.
While Hollis and Moran’s positions were eliminated prior to the pandemic, Hollis said she feels she was blindsided by the decision last year, as the university was still ramping up conversations about needed budget reductions.
“I doubt that there will be an academic job market at all next year,” Hollis said. “…so I’m either going to have to just not work or find other possibilities outside of academia.”
A “Reader’s Forum” opinion piece about the Food Studies situation appears on page 6 of today’s issue.