Jobs saved, confusion lingers


Managing Editor

As the student body headed into spring break on March 14, ESU’s administration publicized changes to the faculty retrenchments that were announced in the fall.

Originally, 13 positions were retrenched.

Of those 13, seven faculty members qualified for and took a transfer.

One faculty member declined transfer and opted for retirement instead.

The changes for these faculty members remain the same.

This left five positions that were slated to be retrenched at the end of this academic year, as of the October 30, 2013 announcement.

Three of those positions were in the chemistry department, which prompted questions leading to protest from chemistry faculty and students.

According to Provost Van Reidhead, of the three chemistry faculty that received a letter of retrenchment, one decided to retire.

The other two have since had their letters of retrenchment withdrawn.

Reidhead attributes the saved jobs in chemistry to a collaborative effort.

“We worked hard to figure out how to do the two things that every department has been asked to do in all of my meetings with them, and that is to simultaneously improve student learning outcomes and achieve cost efficiencies,” said Reidhead.

In the fall of 2012, the chemistry department had 12 faculty members, but they will begin the fall of 2014 with 8 —  due to the retirement of a tenured professor and a reduction in temporary faculty.

A faculty member of the music department also received a letter of retrenchment on October 30 of last year, but that letter has since been withdrawn due to a mistake in reading the professor’s seniority.

The final retrenchment letter given in the fall was to a faculty member of the CAPS counseling center who has been offered a new position that will be part time in the counseling center and part time in the disability services center.

In order to keep all of the tenured faculty at the counseling center, but reduce costs, there will be a reduction in service hours throughout the summer and in the fall.

There will also be an elimination of a temporary faculty member at the disabilities services center to accommodate the half-time position and still reduce cost.

Vice-President of Student Affairs Doreen Tobin explained that she hoped to merge the two service centers in the future as a part of cost saving efforts.

“Our goal is eventually to co-locate those two areas,” said Tobin.

State Associaton of Pennsylvania State College & University faculties (APSCUF) Vice-President Dr. Ken Mash regards the activist efforts of the student body as a turning point in the retrenchment decisions.

“I think it was the student activism that made the difference regarding chemistry and CAPS,” said Mash.

Local APSCUF President Dr. Nancy VanArsdale is relieved that the jobs have been saved, but she is cautious for the future of the university.

“We still have concerns about the administration’s position on music and foreign languages,” said VanArsdale.

Along with the announcement of retrenchment in the fall, administrators also outlined a plan to permanently close the department of Movement and Lifetime Fitness, as well as place a moratorium on the Bachelor of Arts degree in Music, and on the Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Science degrees in French. Minors in both French and German will also be phased out.

VanArsdale expressed concern that these departments were still affected and that no clear plan for the future has been laid out.

“We still question whether now is the right time to eliminate lifetime fitness from GE,” said VanArsdale.

Her concerns regard planned changes to the general education requirements that are to come in the near future — not a sudden elimination like administration has planned.

Professors from these eliminated departments and majors are the seven that accepted transfers into other departments.

VanArsdale expressed concern that the university would ensure that these professors are provided the right supplementary training to be successful in their new positions.

VanArsdale acknowledged that budget issues are a statewide problem stemming from cuts made by Governor Corbett shortly after he took office, but she believes that deep cuts in faculty are not the solution.

“We understand using retirements and natural attrition, but not the deep cuts in academic departments,” said VanArsdale.

VanArsdale also applauds the activist efforts of the science department students at the recent Council of Trustees meeting as a contributing factor to the withdrawal of retrenchment.

“I thought the students at the Council of Trustees meeting were outstanding,” said VanArsdale. “I hope the music students will stand up for the music program.”

Vice-President for Administration and Finance Ken Long explained that he was optimistic that there will be no retrenchment next year.

“Based on cost savings identified by the impacted departments (specifically chemistry and counseling and psychological) along with operating efficiencies identified by the small faculty union/administration workgroup, we are cautiously optimistic that we can offset the cost of retaining these positions for the next calendar year,” said Long in a written statement.

“We will continue to assess these initiatives, as well as others, over the next year to determine if the learning outcomes of programs are met, the quality of programs is being maintained, and the financial needs of the University continue to be supported,” Long continued.

The actual numbers reflecting cost savngs have not yet been released.

As of early March, ESU is still facing a projected $7.6 million deficit for the 2014-2015 academic year.

Reidhead emphasizes that increased enrollment and improved retention are the keys to solving the university’s budget issues.

Reidhead explained that it was a combined effort in meetings with department chairs since the fall, as well as the meet and discuss sessions taking place between VP Long and APSCUF leadership that helped to find cost-saving measures for the university.

“Both sets have been important,” said Reidhead.

VanArsdale agrees that the meet and discuss sessions contributed to the cost saving measures that prompted administration to rescind retrenchment this year.

“I think they took retrenchment off the table because we did help them find some ways to save money,” said VanArsdale.

Ultimately, VanArsdale hopes to keep the dialogue going between APSCUF and the administration, and reflects on a more collaborative effort.

“We want to keep talking,” she said. “I think we’re finding a better way of working together.”

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