Though planned weeks ago, Dana Levin
's Tuesday night reading at O'Shaughnessey Performance Space captured the emotional hue that hangs over the College of Santa Fe with the poignancy that can only come from poetry.
Levin's work, written while on sabbatical after receiving a 2007 Guggenheim Fellowship for poetry, is difficult, filled with esoteric references to the events and dreams that have shaped the author. She is as likely to reference the mountains of New Mexico as the Egyptian sun god Ra. But Levin, always the teacher, writes her poems to inform as well as entertain. She describes an art opening in Los Angeles in such vivid detail that the listener is transformed into viewer, exploring the visual world with Levin and she comes into contact with new ideas herself.
Surprisingly, what brought Levin's work into the present moment was a single word she repeated and explained: ukiyo. The Japanese term, coined in the Edo Period when the leisure class produced massive amounts of art and literature, is rife with contradiction. Phonetically the term has a single pronunciation but when written can mean either "floating world" or "sorrowful world." That it is both says something about the life of leisure and the perceived life of the academic.
As it has been reported in SFR, the New Mexican and the Journal, staff and faculty at CSF face pay cuts of, on average, 25%, though for some those cuts could be as much as 40%. These cuts come at a time when CSF has already laid off numerous employees, those left often doing double duty and taking over responsibilities that were never theirs before.
For the faculty the cuts may be even more devastating. While jobs are hard to come by these days for everyone, for a teacher there aren't many options within their field mid-semester. Meanwhile many of the faculty has expressed to SFR their concerns about the ability to pay mortgages and groceries for their families or their ability to remain in Santa Fe if the college were to close.
Though may believe that academics live lives of leisure the harsh reality is that many CSF staff and faculty live paycheck to paycheck. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education
at Eastern New Mexico University and Highlands University average faculty salaries ranged from $39,100 to $66,800 for the 2007-2008 school year. On the low end a 25% reduction is equal to approximately $9,775 per year or $814 per month. On the high end a 25% reduction in salary is equal to approximately $16,700 per year or $1,392 per month. Big numbers, and that's only the average. It's also right in line with the US Census Bureau's median household income for 2004
, the last year it was available, of $44,318.
During her reading Levin gave a short introduction to the tantric Buddhist deity Yamantaka, the destroyer of death. This deity appears frightening because his job is to scare death away, certainly a deity that many of CSF's staff and faculty may be calling on in the next few days.
(Disclaimer: As an adjunct faculty member at CSF my own pay, and all faculty/staff making under $20,000 per year, is not affected by the proposed cuts.)