An Interview With Dr. Nancy VanArsdale

Dr. Nancy VanArsdale, right, talks at a faculty march on ESU campus last year. Photo Credit / Jamie Reese
Dr. Nancy VanArsdale, right, talks at a faculty march on ESU campus last year. Photo Credit / Jamie Reese
Dr. Nancy VanArsdale, right, talks at a faculty march on ESU campus last year.
Photo Credit / Jamie Reese


SC Staff Writer


Receiving her Ph.D. in English at New York University (NYU), Dr. Nancy VanArsdale, participated in a special program at the NYU Graduate Business School.

The program gave her the opportunity to pursue her interests in Literature and in Business Communication at East Stroudsburg University (ESU).

In 1990, Dr. VanArsdale earned her position as a Professor and Department Chair of ESU’s English department.

ESU is currently facing possible retrenchment. As many departments are at risk, Dr. VanArsdale is willing to give insight towards this growing concern among the ESU community.

Through an email interview, Dr. VanArsdale took the time to face the questions many of us have been asking.


What departments are in danger from the retrenchment?

In August, the ESU administration informed the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) that 18 departments were going to be evaluated and considered for possible retrenchment.

English was one of those departments.The 18 departments were divided into 3 tiers originally, and English was on the third tier.

More recently, the administration has removed English, Psychology, Political Science, History, Communication Studies, Modern Languages, Professional and Secondary Education, Philosophy, Special Education, Reading and Athletics from the possible retrenchment list.

As APSCUF ESU President, I remain concerned that seven departments are still being considered.  They are Chemistry, Physics, Early Childhood and Elementary Education, Movement Activities and Lifetime Fitness, Music, and Counseling and Psychological Services (non-academic).


Is East Stroudsburg University the only Pennsylvania state university facing retrenchment?  

Three other universities in our system have announced plans to lay off large numbers of faculty: more than 40 at Edinboro, 22 at Clarion, and 29 at Mansfield.

Many universities do not plan on retrenching, such as Bloomsburg, West Chester and Shippensburg.


What deficit is East Stroudsburg University facing to make such big cuts throughout departments?

Before, the administration had projected a 7.6 million dollar deficit.  Now the budget is balanced.  APSCUF has many questions about the budgeting process here.


Ultimately leading to department cuts, what do you believe were the key influences to this projected deficit? 

After the recession in 2008, ESU enrollments went up, probably because some students could not afford private college tuition.  Enrollments have returned to levels under 7,000.

There has been a decrease of about 10% since the all-time enrollment high, but that high was influenced by the Great Recession and stimulus funds.

About 25 faculty have retired and not been permanently replaced in the last two years.


If cuts are necessary for Departments, how many professors will be affected? 

Administration announced this week that up to 30 faculty may be retrenched (laid-off).


What is the strategy for determining which professors to cut?

The faculty does not understand the criteria used by the administration in selecting these subjects.


What is the current strategy to preserving the Departments from retrenchment?

The leaders of APSCUF were told that the administration had created a Plan A where no instructional faculty would be retrenched.  We remain perplexed why the administration won’t avoid retrenchment when they said they had a way to avoid it.


Students at East Stroudsburg University are also affected by the impact of retrenchment, how have they shown their concern?

Students have organized marches, petitions and other methods to show their concerns.  Last Thursday, APSCUF sponsored a Q and A and more than 70 students came. We must avoid retrenchment at ESU.  There are better ways to save money and preserve our university reputation.


At this time, do you find it necessary for East Stroudsburg University to invest towards methods that will avoid retrenchment and overall deficits the college faces? 

We should freeze hiring and keep current faculty working hard with our students. Why did the administration just create a new college and add a new dean?  Why are they planning to hire so-called learning coaches at the same time they might lay off faculty who teach? Why is the president using an expensive consultant if times are tough?  Learning coaches cannot teach classes.

I hope President Welsh, who is just beginning her second year, will find the way to avoid retrenchment.  ESU is a solid public university, and we should avoid retrenchment.  We should work harder at recruiting students and finding other ways to cut costs.  We have spent too much on recent building projects that have created debt here.


How can East Stroudsburg University overcome the overwhelming concern of retrenchment affecting both faculty and students? 

Students and alumni should speak up, if they care about the reputation of ESU.

We have been in the papers for years now with bad news about the Sanders scandal.  He was a Vice President here who allegedly had improper relations with students and questionable ways of managing donations.  He was fired.

We don’t need more negative news about cuts.  I hope President Welsh and the Council of Trustees will keep ESU a great university and avoid the negative impact of layoffs.  I know faculty wants to work with the administration to find a better way.


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