VOICES: With no say, students are left to just wait for news on program cuts

Category:  Opinions
Monday, October 5th, 2020 at 3:20 PM

The past six months have been a bit tumultuous for Edinboro students.

The “will they, won’t they” of face-to-face classes, the confusion of integrating with other PASSHE schools, and to top it off, a virtual homecoming. But perhaps the most notable form of stress comes with the threat of program cuts across departments all over campus. And when those cuts finally occur, will students have had any say in them?

The rumors of these potential cuts really started to take hold at the end of August, when rumblings of fine arts programs being at stake began to spread between students and all over social media. The latter came specifically in the revival of the “Save Edinboro University Fine Arts” Facebook group.

EU President Dr. Guiyou Huang addressed some of these concerns in an email sent out campus-wide on Sept. 3. The email stated, “In order to achieve a balanced budget and return to the required student-to-employee ratios, Edinboro must reduce its staff and faculty complements.” The statement continued, “Program evaluations are a critical component of these efforts to ensure efficient operation of the University.” Limited information has been released to students, most of which is not giving answers to specific program concerns. 

Understandably, the university is emphasizing that this is an ongoing program review. They don’t want to publish any information that could later be reversed, causing confusion and unneeded disappointment. EU Provost Dr. Michael Hannan told The Spectator in a previous interview: “I don't want to create unnecessary anxiety for students to say, ‘Oh my gosh, my program is on there,’ when in fact we think we have a way to keep it.”

However, not addressing these rumors as we now move into October, and leaving students in the dark, is causing just as much frustration as false information would. By releasing very little about such impactful decisions, I think the university is causing more irritation among students than a redacted statement would.

Students (and parents of students) are concerned about the future of their programs. Hannan recently reassured students they’d be able to finish a program that went into moratorium, per a Spectator article, but that may do little to ease their minds. Why? Because students may feel they’re getting a compromised education.  

Programs can be weakened if professors are let go (there’s also fear of faculty retrenchment, by the way), leaving the ones still employed to pick up the slack, adding more to their already full plates. Cuts might make programs less well rounded, important parts of an education missing because the higher-ups deemed it was not needed or cost effective. Programs are in danger of becoming a former shell of themselves; parts of them missing, weakened entirely. 

The university has a responsibility to keep its students informed on all changes to campus that will directly affect them. By not letting students express their thoughts on potential program cuts in a face-to-face type setting — over Zoom these days — where they are assured they are being listened to, students are being left out of the conversation completely. (There is a satisfaction survey for students on EngageU about the president’s handling of integration reviews and the novel coronavirus, if you’re interested). 

If cuts and changes are just announced without any student involvement in the choice, some students, myself included, may lose trust in the university. Every time I get an email from the president, I hold my breath, waiting to see if this is finally the one telling me what programs are on the chopping block. Students aren’t being included in conversations that directly affect their futures. We’re just going to be told what the decision is and have to deal with it.  

Meetings are happening to decide the fate of programs students are enrolled in, and the student population doesn’t even get to know what’s going on. The air of secrecy and complete lack of information on the matter does not instill trust as far as this student is concerned. Again, it makes sense that the university does not want to spread misinformation, causing panic over degrees and having the phone lines flooded with angry calls. But misinformation is still spreading in the form of rumors that no one can verify but the very people who are keeping all the real information under lock and key. Do faculty even fully know what’s going on?  

The university has an obligation to keep students informed on happenings in real-time, not once things have already been decided on without students’ opinions being considered in regard to changes. Edinboro University is failing to meet this obligation and therefore, failing its students. 

Emily Anderson is the Voices Editor for The Spectator. She can be reached at edinboro.spectator@gmail.com.

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