Departments express 'deep sadness,' disappointment following retrenchment; APSCUF works on solutions

Category:  News
Monday, November 16th, 2020 at 12:36 PM

The realities of faculty retrenchment and program moratoriums are setting in throughout the Edinboro University community as the process continues to unfold. Edinboro President Dr. Guiyou Huang announced on Oct. 30 that the university would be retrenching 21 permanent faculty, while also "reducing the teaching load assignments by the full-time equivalent (FTE) of 26 temporary/adjunct and regular part-time faculty following the end of the spring semester." 

Along with fired or reassigned faculty, 21 academic programs are being put in moratorium. 

The Spectator spoke with Marc Sylvester, president of Edinboro’s chapter of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (APSCUF), regarding the recent cuts. As the local APSCUF leader, he negotiates on behalf of Edinboro faculty when talking with university leaders and the greater PASSHE administration. 

According to Sylvester, the university’s retrenchment process is based on seniority, meaning professors who have been with the university the least amount of time have a greater chance of being cut. Temporary faculty are eliminated first, then the university moves onto permanent faculty.  

In some cases, however, faculty with less seniority are retained due to their ability to handle courses that more senior faculty do not have the full qualifications to teach. “The process calls for faculty to be minimally qualified to teach in disciplines they are teaching,” Sylvester said. 

Edinboro’s Department of History, Politics, Languages and Cultures is facing a reduction of 10 faculty down to three. The bachelor’s degree in comprehensive history is being placed in moratorium, but the department will still offer a political science degree program.  

Sylvester expanded further on this department, explaining that: “some of the faculty in that department are being reassigned to other places where they have credentials to teach. So, not all of the faculty ... are necessarily being retrenched at Edinboro University; some of them have been moved elsewhere.” 

Amanda Frantz-Mamani, chair of the department, told The Spectator that, “although the information and programs affected were made public, there are still some discussions to find possible solutions.” Frantz-Mamani added that she and her fellow co-workers “all feel deep sadness with the situation created by retrenchment.” 

EU’s education offerings are also taking a hit. Programs being cut include Secondary Education: Physics; Special Education: Autism; Teaching Certification: Music; Teacher Leadership: Social Studies; Teacher Leadership: Online Instruction; and Special Education 7-12. According to Angela Burrows, vice president for marketing and communications at EU, three regular full-time faculty members from the school of education received retrenchment letters.

Dr. Penelope Orr, chair of the Department of Counseling, School Psychology and Special Education, spoke briefly on the changes her area is experiencing. She explained that the department is “still processing what this will mean for students.” 

The environmental studies program will also be eliminated; at 30 students in the fall semester, it’s the highest enrolled program on the moratorium list. “The program will be eliminated, but some classes will continue so that the students currently enrolled in the program can complete their degree,” said Dr. Brian Zimmerman, chair of the geosciences department.

“As the University needed to reduce costs as part of its financial sustainability plan, this program (environmental studies) was identified as one area for savings that would not negatively impact student access to the broader area of study,” Burrows said. According to the university, Edinboro will continue to offer "two other programs in environment science: one in environmental biology, and one in environmental geology.”

Zimmerman said the geosciences faculty were “obviously disappointed” that the program has been placed in moratorium.

Anthropology and forensic anthropology are also being placed in moratorium. Burrows said, “In anthropology, one full-time regular faculty member received a letter, and one regular part-time faculty member will not have courses assigned starting next year.” According to the university, anthropology will be one area where the planned university integration — Edinboro, California and Clarion — may lead to additional opportunities.

Additionally, the following programs are on the list for moratorium: Conflict Management (graduate certificate), Physics, Cooperative Engineering Physics, Data Analysis, Web/Mobile Application Development, International Business, Geographic Information Science, Health and Wellness Studies, and Autism Spectrum Disorders Endorsement.

“Students who are currently enrolled in programs that will be placed in moratorium will be able to complete them and graduate. It is an obligation that we take seriously,” said Dr. Denise Ohler, dean of the College of Science and Health Professions.

Burrows expanded further regarding retrenchment. “Edinboro and our sister institutions must make every effort to ensure each of us is in the best possible financial position to continue to offer a variety of programming and services to students into the future … It is the mission of the university and the system to offer access to a quality higher education at an affordable price. We are committed to working to ensure that mission lives on for many years to come.”

Sylvester serves on the “Meet and Discuss” team, where faculty union representatives meet with management to discuss matters related to the PASSHE faculty collective bargaining agreement. According to Sylvester, the faculty union representatives involved have recently broken down into small groups that each focus on one department where retrenchment letters were issued to do a “deep dive” for solutions. Solutions for retrenched faculty members could include a transfer to one of Edinboro's 13 sister schools, or moving to different programs within the university.

I have a lot of hope that we can save some of these positions. There are creative ways in which we can maintain faculty,” he said. “If there is need in another system institution, that Edinboro faculty [member] could be voted to teach at another system school. That’s one of the things that could be helpful as we’re sort of experiencing this financial rainy day — solutions like that help the university save money but also preserve some of our young faculty talent.”

Both union and university administrators have until May 2021 to fully establish solutions to any retrenchments. Sylvester encourages all students to remain positive despite the circumstances.

We are very hopeful that the solutions found and the faculty being placed in other areas will be a positive effect that will provide excellent learning opportunities for our students.”

The Spectator reached out to other departments affected but did not receive a response at this time.

Julia Carden is a staff writer for The Spectator. She can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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