Tuesday, March 10, 2009

The College of Santa Fe, and More

Hello, and sorry for the hiatus. So much to report about and comment on--it's been a very tumultuous month. Of course, in the forefront of my mind is the impending closing of the College of Santa Fe, where I have been a full time faculty member since 2003. As you may know, the college has declared a financial emergency and faculty and staff received letters telling us that the college will close on May 15th. In addition, staff members have been reduced to 3/4 time at 3/4 salary. Faculty members' salaries have been cut anywhere from 12% to 70%, perhaps more. In the meantime, Representative Luciano Varela has introduced House Bill 577 in the New Mexico Legislature which would approve state acquisition of the college. Though the bill has made it through the House and is winding its way through Senate Committees, there is no guarantee, in this economic climate, that the Senate will approve it.

These are hard times on campus, with student, faculty, and staff morale low. Each student must plan a new future, and graduating seniors have one enormous cloud hanging over their commencement. Even so, the CSF community (including some amazing groups of students) have organized very, very effectively to lobby for the bill at the legislature. We receive email and text message alerts; the college provides van service to the Roundhouse from campus; hundreds of email messages, letters and phone calls have been send to legislators.

Below is one of the versions of the letter I have sent to legislators, with which I'll end this entry. If you'd like to support the CSF effort, please contact your New Mexico legislators to urge them to save CSF for all the reasons I explain below. Thank you.

March 5, 2009

Dear Members of the Senate Education Committee:

I write to urge you to argue passionately for state acquisition of the College of Santa Fe. My parents are alumnae (1956 and 1972) of the college and I am Associate Prof. of English & Creative Writing at CSF. In addition, I am currently the Poet Laureate of the city of Santa Fe and CSF has enthusiastically supported my work as the city’s poet.

This is my sixth year on the faculty of the College of Santa Fe. My department, the Creative Writing and Literature Program, is consistently ranked as one of the top three undergraduate writing programs in the U.S. Often, we are ranked first because of our rigorous paradigm and the successful performance of our graduating majors in the working and writing worlds. Our department is also distinctive because of our faculty—five award-winning, nationally recognized writers who are actively publishing. This is rare for an undergraduate creative writing program.

My father and mother, both graduates of CSF, devoted a total of 55 years as teachers in the Santa Fe Public Schools. They were accomplished teachers and coaches for SFPS and are currently engaged in a wide range of community service programs. In their footsteps, I have also undertaken a career in teaching and also (as Poet Laureate and Artistic Director of the non-profit Littleglobe, Inc.) have dedicated myself to art and public service.

The seeds for our careers and lives were either sparked, supported and/or nurtured by the College of Santa Fe, its staff, administration and faculty. And there are hundreds of us (as you know) who have been thus influenced by the college.

I know the acquisition may seem like a matter of money in a dire economic climate. But it is much more. The state has a unique opportunity to acquire a college campus in the middle of the city of Santa Fe—no small matter if only considering the real estate. Much more importantly, the state has the opportunity to create and promote a state educational institution with distinct possibilities for being a nationally ranked arts and liberal arts school. When the economic crisis passes, this will have seemed like an incredibly visionary and wise decision.


Valerie Martínez
Associate Prof. of English & Creative Writing, CSF
Santa Fe Poet Laureate

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