UPDATE: CLA Dean blames English department for budgeting problems

English Department Head Dorsey Armstrong defended the department in a response to the College of Liberal Arts Dean David Reingold's statement.

Armstrong said in a statement sent Wednesday morning:

"I’m sorry, but I need to correct a few things here.

1. In 2020 the English Department only exceeded our graduate budget because the dean’s office announced cuts to our graduate budget AFTER we had already admitted a cohort. We made admits based on numbers we had been given…and then suddenly the numbers changed. This is not the English Department’s fault.

2. After much discussion, the dean’s office agreed to give English enough money--$304,000—to cover all of our currently enrolled graduate students. We would break even, but would not be able to admit a cohort for the following year.

3. We knew we had no money in the English Department budget to admit a new cohort, but the Writing Lab, which draws its graduate student assistants directly from the pool of English graduate students, had enough money in ITS budget to support a cohort of 15 graduate students, and that money was graciously offered to English by the Writing Lab so that we could make it through that year and keep our grad programs alive. The journal Modern Fiction Studies also offered to support 2 additional students. That brought us a cohort of 17 (not 18). The Writing Lab and MFS agreed to fund those students for the entirety of their time at Purdue, and that is what the acceptance letters for those 17 students specifies. NO ENGLISH GRADUATE FUNDS WERE USED.

4. Suddenly, the $304,000 that had been given to us in order to balance the 2020 budget was described as a “loan” (a word that was not used ONCE until just a couple of months ago) and we were ordered to repay it. We have a plan in place to do so over 3 years, although we had enough money in spendable accounts to cover it all at once. When the dean’s office initially agreed to GIVE the English Department $304,000 to correct our balance sheet, it was in recognition of the fact that CLA was the one who had caused us to be in the red in the first place by suddenly cutting our budget after funds had already been spent. The fiscal irresponsibility there lies squarely on CLA. And the sudden conversion of the balance adjustment into a loan is clearly a response to the fact that we were able to secure non-English funds to admit a cohort of 17, and is retribution for finding a solution to our problem.

5. We once again have been given a graduate studies budget that will allow us to support students that are currently enrolled, but nothing more. I have identifiedmonies that are already sitting in English Department accounts that could be used to support new graduate students (and there’s enough to cover their entire time at Purdue), and I have requested that our department be allowed to transfer that money over to our graduate budget, but that request has been denied.

6. Without the admission of a cohort of at least 8 for the MFA program, that program WILL shut down. This is not “a choice that English is making”; this is a situation into which we are being forced. We expect the Rhet/Comp and Lit gradprograms (already barely surviving after years of cuts to our graduate budget) will be next.

To suggest that English has been “fiscally irresponsible” is a lie. Please correct your statement immediately."

Reingold blamed the English department for the inability to fund its graduate program.

He said in a statement sent Tuesday night:


"In Fall 2020, the English Department’s financial commitments to graduate students exceeded its budget by $303,000. The College of Liberal Arts transferred funds to backstop the overcommitment with those funds to be repaid over a three-year period.

Rather than accounting for the previous year’s shortfall, in Fall 2021, the English Department brought in a new cohort of 18 students during a time when many humanities programs at Purdue and nationally paused or greatly decreased their graduate admissions. This was the largest in the College of Liberal Arts, which averaged 5.5 new students. Two units fully paused graduate recruitment for Fall 2021.

In order to honor its commitment to current graduate students, who are funded for three (MFA) or five (PhD) years when they enroll, the English Department has left itself no choice but to pause its graduate recruitment for Fall 2022. Beginning in Fall 2023, the English Department will be able to resume graduate recruitment based on its graduate education budget.

The English Department graduate education budget from Fall 2021 to Fall 2022 remains unchanged, as do the graduate education budgets for all academic units in the College of Liberal Arts. In fact, the English Department continues to have the largest graduate education budget of any academic unit in the College.

The leadership and faculty of the English Department, like every department on campus, is charged with determining how to allocate its budget. Only the Department of English can determine the future of the publication of Sycamore Review or the MFA in creative writing.

Purdue expects all departments to exercise fiscal responsibility and stewardship of university resources."