More than a hundred professors from five Pennsylvania public universities were notified on Friday that … [+]
For weeks, professors at the 14 universities of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) have feared the anticipated news of large-scale teacher layoffs. And on Friday the bad news came. More than 100 full and tenured professors at the universities of Indiana, Edinboro, Lock Haven, Cheyney, and Mansfield were told they would lose their jobs as of the end of the current academic year.
The notifications, which were contractually required to be made before October 30 under a collective bargaining agreement, may be just the beginning. Other teachers, including adjuncts, may still be notified later in the school year.
Indiana University of Pennsylvania
The greatest success was at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, which notified 81 faculty members on Friday that they would be out of work at the end of the academic year.
"We are still absorbing the shock," said David Chambers, a political science professor who is vice president of the IUP section of the teachers' union.
Chambers said the cuts, added to retirements and non-renewal of temporary contracts, would lead to job losses to the equivalent of about 128 full-time positions. The cuts will also result in the elimination of several academic departments entirely, including journalism and public relations, information systems and decision science, and development studies.
Earlier this week, IUP President Michael Driscoll had informed the university that enrollment in five programs at the College of Fine Arts would be closed: Theater-Musical Theater, Interdisciplinary Fine Arts-Dance Arts, Master of Arts in Fine Arts in Art, Master of Art-Art Education and Art Studio – for Fall 2021. That decision was part of a downsizing in the face of a 33% decline in enrollment over the past decade, resulting in a shortfall budget of $ 16 million this year.
At Edinboro University, professors were notified Friday that the University planned to eliminate the equivalent of more than 50 full-time faculty positions next spring. Included in the cuts are 21 full-time or permanent professors and the full-time equivalent of 26 temporary and adjunct professors. Nine additional teacher positions that are currently vacant will not be filled.
According to Edinboro President Guiyou Huang, another 12 permanent members of the faculty have been transferred to other jobs at the university. Huang added: "While they are necessary, these decisions are not easy. They change the lives of the teachers involved and their families."
Lock Haven, Cheyney and Mansfield Universities
Although less details were available on the layoffs at other PASSHE institutions, press reports indicated that six professors were notified at Cheyney, two at Lock Haven and three in Mansfield.
The faculty's notifications are just the latest in a series of moves within the PASSHE system to shore up its financial position, which has been seriously threatened by years of declining enrollment, along with devastating budget impact of the coronavirus. Academic reorganizations, unit consolidations, workforce reductions, and spending belt tightening have become common occurrences.
In early October, the PASSHE Board of Governors approved the next step in a process that could result in the merger of the universities of California, Clarion and Edinboro into a single unit in western Pennsylvania along with the combination of the universities of Bloomsburg, Lock Haven and Mansfield on the northern level of the state.
“We are seizing the opportunity to stand up together,” PASSHE Chancellor Dan Greenstein told the board of the 14 state universities. Trying to sound optimistic, Greenstein insisted that mergers would allow schools to maintain their own identities, save money, benefit students, and develop opportunities for growth.
But it was hard to find much optimism about the day's gloomy announcements among PASSHE teachers and students. For them, Friday was a day of sadness, another setback for institutions that have had much more than their share.