By Konstantine Fekos
More than 40 faculty positions and five academic majors at Edinboro University may be cut as part of a proposed plan released by school administrators, who are trying to balance a $5.5 million structural deficit for the current fiscal year.
The proposal would make way for programs that may foster better enrollment and growth, President Julie Wollman said Wednesday.
Also outlined were several factors administrators claim influenced the university’s current deficit, including declines in high school enrollment in the northeast U.S., EUP enrollment and state funding as well as an increase in unspecified fixed costs.
“We don’t know what’s being cut,” Wollman said, stressing the plan’s preliminary status regarding “the budget, costs of different areas and alternatives we’ve put on the table.”
Discussions regarding alternatives to retrenchment and faculty cuts have been held most notably between administrators and the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF) with another meeting scheduled for this Friday.
Jean Jones, president of Edinboro University’s APSCUF chapter and professor of communication, felt the report blindsided faculty upon its alleged university-wide release.
“I cannot express how disappointed I am, not only with the plan, but also with the process the administration has used to release (it),” Jones said Wednesday. “Since it involves cutting faculty jobs, the administration should have discussed it with APSCUF before making it public.”
Also outlined in the proposal are Bachelor of Arts degrees in German, music, music education, philosophy and world languages and cultures, which may be eliminated aside from minor studies and general education classes.
The proposal indicates “so little student demand” and a “declining trend in interest” in the aforementioned majors, Wollman said. “(They’re) not viable any longer.”
“Unless there’s some sort of miracle, the philosophy major will go to moratorium,” said Dr. Corbin Fowler, philosophy professor.
Fowler, one of three remaining philosophy instructors in the newly restructured English and Liberal Studies department, isn’t happy about the idea, but he believes it to be inevitable.
“I would be astonished if there was a reversal,” he said. “They want to reduce the remaining three (philosophy professors) to two in order to save money.”
Programs graduating less than six majors a year over a five-year period are considered for moratorium, Fowler said.
As a result, the university may instead focus on new or revised programs which indicate potential growth, including animation and digital arts, integrated media production, industrial psychology and forensic computing.
“(The proposal) is very preliminary,” said Anthony Peyronel, chairperson of the communication and media studies department. “We appreciate our department being seen as having the potential for growth, but there aren’t a lot of specifics at this point.”
Continued talks with faculty and staff regarding the proposal may carry well into next fall, according to Wollman.
Jones emphasized APSCUF’s continued attempts to work with administration in finding alternatives to retrenchment.
“I think it’s also safe to say that management’s actions (Wednesday) will likely change the tone of Friday’s meeting,” she said. “If retrenchment letters go out, we’re still going to the table hoping to find alternatives to what they’re proposing.”
The administration’s deadline to send a retrenchment letter to tenured faculty is Oct. 30, in accordance with the APSCUF collective bargaining agreement.
Wollman reported 80 percent of the university’s budget as personnel and administration needs to look at potentially overstaffed areas given the current 16:5 student to faculty ratio.
“(The ratio) is misaligned,” she said. “There are fewer students and too many faculty (members).”
EUP has already cut 11 unspecified managerial positions with another 13 managerial and staff positions considered under the proposal, Wollman added.
The Tribune’s attempts to contact additional department chairpersons and student government were unsuccessful.
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.