As a Fulbrighter enrolling at Ohio University, I was a little frightened knowing that I had begun a radically new adventure. I had come to a new country, culture and educational system in the company of my two children, 6 months old and 3 years old at the time. We never know what opportunities and risks life has in store for us until we stumble upon them.
When I moved to Athens in September of 2017, I knew no one. My sense of isolation lasted for only a few months, however, before I started to feel the warmth, care and support of people around me, especially from my professors. Some taught my own classes, while others I met in other contexts. The fact that they helped me with my own personal struggles made me realize how caring, passionate, and professional the OU professors were.
As a single mother taking care of two little children, while pursuing my Masters of Arts in International Development, and with no old friends or family, I found myself in one very challenging situation after another. Nonetheless, angels in the form of professors supported me in every way they could. Some advised, others babysat my children so I could meet deadlines, and others built a network to help me. Their compassion exceeded my expectations, rising even beyond imagination. It was like an army of professors, pushing me with love, not only so that I would finish my degree, but also excel in the process. The community and family spirit I discovered at OU I had never before encountered, not even in my own culture. At OU, I was home. I felt well educated, well cared for, safe and successful.
Ironically, the very professors who will face the deepest cuts have initiated a fundraising campaign on behalf of those who will need financial support during the COVID-19 crisis. Even in their darkest moments, they work quickly to establish solidarity with the disadvantaged and to give back to the community.
Do they not deserve appreciation and support from all of us? What is an academic institution without those who pour their hearts into it? Students, you worry about the quality of education you receive. Parents, you worry about your children's future education and the thousands of dollars you will pay. Community members, you must stand up for the institution that embraced students and families from across the globe and made you proud of the diversity they brought to your campus culture. Faculty, even if you are not directly impacted by the decision, you must stand up for your colleagues.
If you let this happen once, it will more likely happen over and over again in the future, both to you and to your successors. It is not the battle only for those professors who will be laid off. It is the battle for every single Bobcat, alum, community member, senior staffer and supporter, inside and outside the institution.
Please do not allow layoffs to ruin a legacy of 215 years of quality education from excellent professors on a safe campus that provides so many essential services. A lesson learned from COVID-19 is that if it strikes one, it will strike others unless everyone does their part to protect the one and the whole. If we do not act now to protect the instructional faculty, the whole institution will suffer harm.
Why should highly productive academic departments and individual faculty members pay for the mistakes of the administration? Let us take a moment and wonder why the deficit happened in the first place? Did it not result from an accumulation of poor administrative decisions? OU's administration must not lay off instructors who have never spared an effort to make OU a great university. Let us, the international and domestic members of the OU community, come together now and protect OU's legacy and honor that we all carry in our hearts wherever we go.
Samar A. Elkahlout is a graduate student studying international development studies at Ohio University. Please note the opinions of letters do not represent those of The Post.