Katie Hillman – Staff Writer
CLARION, Pa.- All 14 state universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) are currently under a strategic review which may result in faculty layoffs.
A report issued by Clarion University explained that Clarion’s programs are constantly under review to ensure that all academic credentials are aligned with both student interests and employee needs of the region and commonwealth.
It stated, “With nearly 80 percent of our students choosing Clarion University for our academic offerings in professional preparation in business, education, health sciences and the arts and sciences, our credentials continue to evolve to meet those needs working within our resources,” the report said.
The report added, “While this process allows us to make necessary institutional changes in a thoughtful, deliberate way, these changes can also affect people, and any decisions which may impact academic programs and our employees will not be taken lightly.”
According to Clarion Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) President Ray Feroz, PASSHE is considering potential faculty layoffs to reduce costs and save money.
“We [APSCUF] argue that this is a foolish way to cut costs since faculty are mission-critical, and cutting faculty actually hurts enrollment,” Feroz said.
Currently, Clarion has not made any cutting decisions. “There are no programs or number of positions which are under consideration” the report said. If any decisions are made, it would take a year to implement them.
In the report, it was made clear that the information was “an agreed-upon step in the faculty union collective bargaining agreement, which requires system universities to provide what amounts to at least a full academic year’s notice if there is the possibility that a position is being considered for elimination.”
The report said, “[It] doesn’t mean any positions will be retrenched, but the universities are obligated by contract to give notice if the possibility exists and engage the faculty union in exploring alternatives to retrenching faculty.”
According to Feroz, any decisions that would be made would come from the university administration, who may decide to eliminate low-enrollment programs for example.
“The president says that her costs went up as a result of wage adjustments made due to the collective bargaining agreement settlement after the Oct. 19 – 21, 2016 strike,” said Feroz.
“Faculty would argue that the real reason for the budget shortfall at Clarion is that enrollment and revenue was, and still is, negatively impacted by Dr. Whitney’s ill-conceived workforce plan of 2013 and the accompanying dissolution of the College of Education and retrenchment of faculty.”
“We hope that it is unlikely Clarion students would lose faculty,” said Feroz. “We continue to work with Dr. Whitney and her administration to make sure that faculty layoffs are not done. Like I said before, we faculty feel that the university enrollment is actually harmed by faculty retrenchment. This is, in fact, what happened after the last retrenchment.”
If any faculty get retrenched, students would become affected in several ways, including having few course offerings, less variety and choice of professors available to students and an increase in closed sections.
“It is our belief at APSCUF that retrenchment is unnecessary and harmful,” said Feroz. “Clarion did this retrenchment a few years ago and it has resulted in an ongoing disaster. And now we are talking about doing retrenchment again.”