ESU Community Raises Questions on Retrenchment

VP of Financing, Ken Long, President Marcia Welsh, and Provost Van Reidhead at a press conference. Photo Credit / Valentina Caval

BY VICTORIA KRUKENKAMP

SC Managing Editor

 

In response to the announcement made Wednesday, October 30, 2013 regarding the retrenchment, reassignment, and non-renewal of contract for 15 tenured faculty positions at the end of the 2013-2014 academic year, President Welsh and the ESU Administration made themselves available to the campus community to answer questions and concerns through forums and meetings.

President Welsh was invited to attend the regularly scheduled Student Senate meeting at 2 PM on October 31, 2013 where she answered questions from student senators about how to represent confirmed retrenchment to the student body.

“Does that mean the Gen. Ed. requirement for two FIT classes will be eliminated?” asked one student senator regarding the elimination of the Lifetime Movement & Fitness department for the 2014-2015 academic year.

“I think most of you know we have been trying to work on a new general education program for a number of years,” said President Welsh.  “We will not pay for the FIT courses after this year.”

President Welsh emphasized that she still requires cooperation from faculty to change the general education requirements.

“That said, we still need a faculty vote to do away with the two fitness courses as a requirement, but we’re confident that will happen,” said Welsh.

Student Senate Vice-President Kwaku Adjei-Bohyen asked President Welsh to dispel the rumors that ESU’s decision to retrench was politically motivated.

“There seems to be a lot of politic from both sides, and I just want to know, are these positions being laid off for personal reasons or professional reasons?” said Adjei-Bohyen.

“None of the decisions are personal,” said President Welsh.  “This is not political or targeted, or it probably would have been different people.”

Following the Student Senate Meeting, the regularly scheduled Council of Trustees meeting was held at the Innovation Center, where the public was given the opportunity to address the Council regarding retrenchment.

Before opening the floor to public comment, Pat Ross, chair of ESU’s Council of Trustees, made a statement encouraging the campus community to come together.

“Please do not let these difficult times become a deterrent for current or future students who also become alumni with bright futures and great success,” said Ross.  “We know that our university is strong, but can get stronger.  Our hope is that we can accomplish this and so much more together.”

Dr. Andrea McClanahan, Chapter Vice-President of ESU Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculty (APSCUF) and Communications Studies Department Chair, pleaded with the Council of Trustees to look closely at decisions that are being made on campus.

“The Council of Trustees have got to stop ignoring the concerns of those on campus regarding the situations that happen on campus,” said McClanahan.

“Decisions are being made without complete honesty, or, despite what you said, without complete collaboration.  Departments who were on the retrenchment list are still not clear why they were there.  We have never been given a clear reason.”

McClanahan continued to explain her belief in ESU, her passion for the university, and her fears about the future of ESU after retrenchment.

“The decision to cut faculty and programs has placed us in a terrible situation, one that is going to take years to overcome. I am asking you, as the council of trustees, as the stewards of this university to not just believe the administration and allow decisions to go unquestioned.  You need to believe in ESU in its entirety, including the faculty, the students, the staff, and the administration, as well as the community members who benefit from the many programs ESU has to offer,” said McClanahan.

McClanahan continued, “I believe in ESU, and I believe it is time that you demonstrate your commitment to do the same by asking questions. Stop allowing decisions like this to go unchecked.”

On Friday, November 1, 2013, President Welsh hosted an open forum for students at the Abeloff Center for the Performing Arts.

Shannon Long, an advocate for the CAPS Counseling Center, asked President Welsh to respond to the petition and video that Ms. Long helped circulate which requested that the center be saved from retrenchment.

“We made it very clear why this affected us.  We made it very clear why we were concerned.  I understand you’re very busy, but we have felt very ignored,” said Ms. Long.  “You still have not answered my questions as to why you decided to remove one of four counselors.”

Dr. Doreen Tobin took over answering for President Welsh because she was active in the decision making process regarding the CAPS retrenchment.

“The counseling services is supported financially through the general health fee that we have on campus.  Proportionally, it’s a very large percentage of the health fee and we have about four hundred students who seek direct services,” said Tobin.  “About 70% of those students see a counselor four or fewer times.”

Ms. Long emphasized that the main reason her team took on the project of creating a petition to save the counseling center was because of the faculty member that would potentially be retrenched.

“As far as the selection of who is retrenched— is driven by the collective bargaining agreement—we have no choice in that.  It has to be seniority, and I think we would all agree that is not always the best choice,” said President Welsh.

On Tuesday, November 5, 2013, President Welsh held another open forum, this time with the Faculty.

Questions were limited to one per person with a strict two-minute time limit for each question.

Dr. Don Dellipriscoli, ESU’s History Department Chair, asked the President and Provost Van Reidhead to explain how the thirteen departments that were considered for retrenchment were chosen.

“The point that I do not understand, and really can’t accept, you looked to cut—you focused on a third of the departments, and I don’t understand why you would not look at all 36 or 38 departments to try to get the most cost cutting out of each before one retrenchment letter went out,” said Dellipriscoli.

“We have still not covered our deficit for next year by millions of dollars,” said Welsh.  “We will be talking with absolutely every department over the next few weeks.”

Dellipriscoli questioned why that wasn’t done before retrenchment was decided upon.

“Because we lacked the resources of time and personnel,” answered Provost Van Reidhead.

 

Email Victoria at:

vkrukenkam@live.esu.edu

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