Community Voices Concerns to Council of Trustees

Jennifer Heilakka addresses the Council of Trustees. Photo Credit / Rebecca Jasulevicz
Jennifer Heilakka addresses the Council of Trustees. Photo Credit / Rebecca Jasulevicz

Jennifer Heilakka addresses the Council of Trustees.
Photo Credit / Rebecca Jasulevicz

By Rebecca Jasulevicz
Managing Editor

At the Council of Trustees meeting on November 5, members of the ESU student body, faculty, and community expressed their concerns regarding the recent retrenchment of the Music Department faculty and the difficulties of registering for classes for the spring semester.

The moratorium of the Music Department will be complete in May 2015 and there will be no general education classes offered by the department during the upcoming spring semester.

Dr. Ken Mash, President of APSCUF, said, “East Stroudsburg University — as of right now — is one of only two universities that are continuing with retrenchment. The responsibility of the university is to provide an affordable education and a high quality education as well. How can we possibly be here at this moment, even considering eliminating music entirely from the university?”

Since 2009, there has been a 17 percent reduction in faculty, which has mainly been caused by tenured faculty members retiring and their positions not being refilled.

According to ESU President Marcia G. Welsh, “We’ve also lost 50 percent of our graduate students and a significant number of undergraduate students. We can’t keep the same number of faculty when the number of students is going down.”

However, the Music Department currently consists of only two faculty members: Dr. Betsy Buzzelli-Clarke and Dr. James Maroney.

After the department is dissolved, “we will have the distinction of being the only four-year university in the country without a Music Department,” said Laura Beimfohr, a graduate student studying biology.

Dr. Buzzelli-Clarke, the chair of the Music Department, said, “Students want to learn about music. Music has been an integral part of the human soul since long before any of us were even glimmers in anybody’s eye.”

Dr. Maroney has served on the faculty as the director of choral and vocal activities for the past 14 years.

He said, “In every semester of my 14 years here, the vast majority of the students in all the choral ensembles have been non-music majors. For example, in this semester alone, the ESU acappella ensemble members are of the following majors: speech pathology, environmental studies, biology, marine science, political science, computer science, business, communication studies, English, theater, and one graduate student who is secondary education biology.”

Last December, the acappella ensemble was invited to perform at the White House. In 2011, the ensemble was invited to perform at the Fall Conference of the PA Chapter of the American Choral Directors Association.

According to Dr. Maroney, “It marked the first time that an ESU choral ensemble was invited to a professional music conference, and the first and only time ever in the conference’s history where it featured a choir consisting of almost entirely non-music majors.”

Despite a difference in majors, students expressed that they feel as though the Music Department has provided them with a new family, whether it be through involvement in choral activities or groups with instrumental focus.

Chase Weiss, a freshman majoring in business management, said, “If you cut the music program, you won’t just be cutting a class or even just be cutting a choir, but you’d be cutting a family. In my experiences, the most I’ve felt like I’m in a family wasn’t with any of my other programs, but it was in the choir. It’s always felt like a family to me.”

Jennifer Heilakka, the chapter president of Kappa Kappa Psi, the National Honorary Band Fraternity, said, “If you take away the music faculty, you take away a part of our lives where we get to meet brothers across the country… If you take away the music faculty here, we can’t exist on campus at all and we can’t work with the band to help strengthen the band’s musicality. We can’t get the leadership skills that we need to.”

While students will no longer be able to take general education courses in music and receive private lessons, they are not the only group worried about the consequences of retrenchment.

Members of the community are active in the concert band, jazz band, concert choir, and orchestra.

“We have more community involvement than any other program on this campus every week,” said Dr. Buzzelli-Clarke.

“Do not be so short-sighted in believing that these cuts and retrenchments will only affect music majors,” said Beimfohr, toward the council. She continued, “Most of the students and members who are involved are not music majors at all. Community members make up over half of the choir.”

The marching band, concert band, and jazz band will continue to exist, but all other ensembles will disband with the loss of the Music Department.

Collette Ryder, a 1996 graduate of ESU and the President of the Alumni Association, said, “I’d like to know what criteria were used to determine which ensembles would be kept and which would be eliminated. For example, arguably the most expensive ensemble is the marching band. Where is that being paid for if the music curriculum is eliminated?”

Cuts to the Music Department were not the only causes of concern brought to the council’s attention. Losses in faculty and staff in the Chemistry Department and the Physics Department are also causing problems for students.

“During registration this year, there was a grave error resulting in a free-for-all. During priority registration, freshmen, sophomores, and juniors were able to register as well due to an error in pins. The Monday I began registering as an honors priority registration student, there was a mere eight seats remaining in Fundamentals of Physics II,” said Emily Fox, a student majoring in marine science and biology with minors in chemistry and women’s studies.

“It’s very difficult to predict the impact of cuts,” said Dr. Robert Cohen, the chair of the Physics Department.

As of November 5, there was only one section of Fundamental Physics II being offered in the upcoming spring semester, with 40 seats available. Two days after priority registration began, all 40 seats were occupied.

According to Dr. Cohen, as of November 5 when the Council of Trustees meeting took place, there were an additional 46 students wait-listed for this course. As of November 12, this issue has not been resolved.

“I think we can address this, but this shows…that we just can’t sustain the cuts,” said Dr. Cohen.

Students expressed their frustrations over not being able to register for their required classes, noting concerns about not being able to graduate on time and experiencing scheduling conflicts.

Marcus Lingenfelter, a member of the Council of Trustees, said, “Help us help ESU. Tell governor-elect Wolf so that when he makes his budget address in the spring, perhaps for the first time in…at least a decade…perhaps this governor will decide to make the children of the Commonwealth a priority for the first time in a very long time. ”

Email Rebecca at:
rjasulev@live.esu.edu

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