Edwin Woodruff Tait, Ph.D., former assistant professor of Bible and religion, stepped down from his position in May due to a series of budget cuts by the university. He now works as an adjunct professor. He sat down with Opinion Editor Laura Good to discuss how his life has changed in the past year.
Looking back a year later, how do you feel about the budget cuts now?
Obviously the decisions that the university made, certainly with regard to me, were within their rights, but I also think that Huntington University needs to consider what kind of community we want to be. Not to introduce politics into it, but I was listening to President Obama’s speech last night and he was talking about a company that had made the decision not to lay off any employees during the economic crisis even if that meant that the owners had to lose some perks and so on. Now, I am not in a position to say whether Huntington could have done that. I can only say that in a Christian community it would have been a wonderful witness if we could have. Obviously I’m the one that got laid off so I would say that, but I think I can honestly say that if I were the person in charge—which I wouldn’t be good at—but if I were, I would hope that I would have tried to make that kind of decision. But, I don’t know what the realities were. I have no idea what it is like to run a large institution. I’m not in a good position to judge; I have a personal bias in it. I can only say wistfully, wouldn’t it have been great if we could have been a Christian witness on that point.
Has this posed any financial difficulties for you?
Of course, we’re going to have to pay for health insurance which is very steep. Huntington was providing part of the cost when I had a tenure track job. That’s the major problem. I’m also making much less money and having to teach five classes this semester at three different schools, one online, two for Huntington, and two for Saint Francis. My wife is teaching two classes, which she had not planned to teach any this semester because we had another baby May 31. We found out last year that I was not getting my contract renewed just after we found out we were having another child. It’s been a really tough year, and we had hoped Jennifer would not have to teach this semester. We’re teaching seven classes between the two of us. Plus, she’s doing a lot of freelance writing. We’re also getting some financial help from relatives. So, we’re making it; we’re going to survive, but it’s certainly been a very tough year.
What are your future plans?
Well, we’re both applying for jobs obviously. Last year I got one on campus interview which was pretty good in a tough job market, but I didn’t get the job. My wife also had an interview on campus at Anderson and didn’t get that job. It’s a very tough job market out there. There’s several jobs right in my field that I think I had a decent chance at, but it’s very iffy because there’s going to be hundreds of other people with very good credentials looking for these jobs. Coming out of a small teaching institution if you go for a job that wants more research you don’t have the credentials often because I’ve not been doing a lot of research over the last six years at Huntington. It’s uncertain; we have a lot of options we’re considering. We’re trusting the Lord will provide; it’s just very uncertain right now.
What are you looking forward to most this fall?
I’m enjoying the diversity of classes; the good part about being an adjunct is that you get to teach a bunch of different stuff. I was a history major. I saw myself as a historian originally; I got a Ph. D. in religion so I’ve been teaching in the Bible and religion department here. This year as an adjunct I’m teaching one class for Bible and religion which is Religions, one class for the history department which is fun, an online history class, and then two classes for Saint Francis. I’m teaching with one of the sisters there—a class on interfaith dialogue—and then I’m teaching a class on Protestant theology. So it’s a nice free diverse mix of classes because it’s for different institutions and different groups of students.
It’s exciting; it’s also just really exhausting. Also, having a new child, watching her begin to interact more, she’s three months old, is really fun. My other daughter is at that age where she is really developing intellectually and she’s beginning to ask a lot of questions; I probably answer them too fully. We got into a discussion this morning that wound up turning into a discussion about capital punishment just as the school bus arrived.