Eric Zavinski – Editor in Chief
CLARION, Pa- In an environment of tight funding for Pennsylvania’s state schools, the notion of the retrenchment of local university faculty could include layoffs in multiple academic programs.
The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) administered multiple notices of potential layoffs earlier this year. Since then, most letters of intent to retrench faculty in the 14 state schools have been pulled. Both Clarion and Cheyney University remain in danger of faculty layoffs from the state in the 2017-18 academic year.
The California University of Pennsylvania, Edinboro University and (most recently) Mansfield University have made it unscathed from the possibility of retrenchment this year as PASSHE no longer feels it necessary to consider layoffs in those schools.
Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) President Ray Feroz remains concerned that Clarion is still in danger of state-mandated layoffs.
“The faculty union will push back hard if the administration goes ahead with layoffs,” said Feroz. “Layoffs will harm the university, just as they have in the past.”
To take action against potential layoffs, APSCUF held a legislative assembly Sept. 15 and 16 in Harrisburg to rally against the possibility. Feroz mentioned that former President Dr. Karen Whitney advised layoffs could be a possibility for this school year starting March 31.
“Although the presidents of Cal U and Edinboro and Mansfield (most recently on Sept. 12) mutually pledged to work together for the good of their universities and avoid faculty layoffs, Clarion management has been unwilling to make the same type of agreement here. We saw what happened after the reorganization and faculty retrenchment of 2013-14. Clarion’s enrollment plummeted,” said Feroz. “It haunts us still.”
Feroz said the position of APSCUF is that they think any faculty layoffs would harm the university’s infrastructure and reputation. Despite a perceived adversarial relationship from Feroz, he said he wishes to cooperate to find a solution with Clarion University administration, the State System and its leader Interim Chancellor Karen Whitney.
In the upcoming weeks, APSCUF and its faculty will be working with Acting Clarion University President Todd Pfannestiel, who hopes retrenchment can be avoided but also realizes there are academic programs fewer students are interested in pursuing.
“Clarion University management has been engaged in discussions regarding low-enrolled academic programs with the local APSCUF chapter since late last year,” said Pfannestiel.
“Management continues to work with the local faculty union to find reasonable approaches to issues related to program sustainability and faculty staffing that will prevent the retrenchment of any faculty.”
Pfannestiel mentioned that earlier in the year the State System was obligated to let universities know ahead of time that faculty layoffs could occur. The notice for potential retrenchment was “contractually prescribed” according to Pfannestiel, and the end result could be the layoff of no faculty at Clarion for the 2017-18 year, much like in the cases of California, Edinboro and Mansfield.
“No decisions have been made at this time to issue a formal notice of retrenchment,” said Pfannestiel, “and university management continues to work with the local faculty union with the goal of identifying reasonable alternatives that will avoid the need to issue any letters.”
Only time will tell if any faculty from Clarion University get laid off in order to align with PASSHE’s goals for the 14 schools overall. From the financial stability of those schools to the careers of local professors, a lot is being considered across the aisle.