Students, faculty and supporters at the University of New Hampshire rallied in support of UNH lecturers today. Lecturers, who are not tenured and work off of contracts, have been negotiating for a new contract for over two years, demanding higher wages and stronger job security.
This year, five lecturers were informed their contracts would not be renewed. Four teach in the English as a Second Language Institute.
Japanese language lecturer Pamela Ikegami's contract was also not renewed, and UNH will eliminate the Japanese program next year.
At the rally, Hannah Mathieu, a UNH senior, spoke about her relationship with Ikegami.
“She was that mom that I didn’t know that I needed…I’m sorry to tear up right now…she was that mom that I needed at school and the one that I didn’t need to talk to every day, but knew that if I needed anything, you were there for me,” Mathieu said.
Junior Benjamin Kurkemueller also studies Japanese at UNH. He said the Japanese program was part of what influenced his decision to attend the school.
“To see the university treat this as though this program, and something that I and my colleagues are very passionate about, as a hobby, as something that we do to fill up credits on our resume, is maddening. Maddening to say the least.”
UNH College of Liberal Arts Dean Michele Dillon said the non-renewals were a result of “declining enrollments and other challenges.”
The number of international students at UNH, who commonly take classes at the ESL institute, has dropped by over 300 since 2016, according to UNH data. And according to financial documents, UNH’s College of Liberal Arts experienced a $2.1 million deficit last year.
“While I always draw on qualitative and contextual considerations (not just quantitative metrics) in making any decision, nonetheless, given the relatively low numbers of students taking Japanese courses in any given semester, it is hard to sustain a commitment to the program,” Dillon said in an email.
Some students said attending the rally felt like déjà vu almost two years after the College of Liberal Arts non-renewed 17 lecturers across disciplines. Those non-renewals heavily affected language programs at UNH.