By William Cameron
SC Contributing Writer
Nearly a year after its initiation, the retrenchment of ESU’s music faculty ended last week with the announcement that the university’s two music professors will be retained full-time as part of the theater department.
Tenured professors Dr. Betsy Buzzelli-Clark and Dr. James Maroney were scheduled for retrenchment at the close of the current spring semester. The two comprise the final remnants of ESU’s music program.
The decision to dismiss the instructors followed last year’s announcement that the university planned to eliminate its music department entirely.
While the music department will still be dissolved by the semester’s end, Buzzelli and Maroney will remain indefinitely to teach music courses for general education credit.
The retention of the final two professors came as the result of negotiations between the university and representatives of the faculty union, the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculty (APSCUF).
“This is a great victory for the students, the university, and the faculty,” said Dr. Nancy VanArsdale, ESU’s Chapter President of APSCUF. “What university in the country wants to prevent students from taking some music classes?”
Months of arbitration in the state capitol amounted to a total of two unfair labor practices and seven grievances filed against the university.
ESU President Marcia Welsh, Ph. D., made an official announcement about the agreement on Thursday.
“We see this agreement as something that is in the best interest of our student body and the university,” said Welsh in a press release from the university the same day.
The announcement also claimed that all grievances were eliminated with the agreement; however, reports from both “Pocono Record” and the APSCUF official blog state that one outstanding grievance remains in effect.
Both sources report that the unresolved grievance addresses the university’s lack of proper documentation justifying the department’s elimination. The official resolutions passed by the APSCUF delegates can be found on their blog page.
Conflicting assessments of the agreement’s economic impact have also been released by both parties.
In the official release, ESU’s Vice President for Administration and Finance, Kenneth Long, states that the “agreement to retain two fulltime faculty members to teach general education music courses is not the most economically sound decision for the university.”
On the same day, APSCUF President Dr. Ken Mash issued a statement saying “retaining the two music faculty members is an economically sound decision for the University because they will be primarily teaching general education courses that raise revenue.”
University officials decided to retrench after projecting a 6.7 million dollar deficit for the 2013 to 2014 school year. The estimate was reduced to a 4.9 million dollar deficit after a three percent tuition increase was factored in.
ESU ended the 2013 to 2014 school year with a 3 million dollar surplus submitted in its final budget. Despite the surplus, the university continued with plans to retrench music faculty.
With the recent agreement, both Mash and VanArsdale are hopeful for a renewed relationship between faculty and administration. In addition to the efforts of many faculty members, VanArdsale credits the student body for supporting faculty.
“The students who came to the Council of Trustees meetings and campus meetings made a huge difference,” said VanArsdale.
One involved student, Sophia Thompson, notes that she is “optimistic for the future of vocal music at ESU.”
In the official press release, Joanne Bruno, J.D., Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs at ESU, said, “We will also be working with music professionals within the community-at-large to evaluate our music ensemble programs and to determine those that will best serve our students. It will then be our charge to determine how we can make those ensembles financially viable.”
At this time, there is no information available specifying which programs will be evaluated.
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