The threat of faculty loss is on the rise for schools in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) as retrenchment is on the rise, and it’s no different for IUP.
Other schools seeing retrenchment include California University of Pennsylvania, Clarion and Edinboro.
Members of the Association of Pennsylvania State College & University Faculties (APSCUF) held a “town hall-like” meeting 3 to 4 p.m., Sept. 30, via Zoom, to give students a better understanding of what retrenchment entails. It was exclusive to students and student journalists so that they could “have their voices heard.”
There were approximately 30 students and APSCUF members at the event.
“It's a person being dismissed from their position due to no fault of their own,” Jamie Martin, president of APSCUF, said in regard to the meaning of retrenchment
Martin taught in the criminology department at IUP for over 20 years. During the meeting, she answered student questions and explained what could ensue if retrenchment does take place and why it was happening.
Chancellor Daniel Greenstein wanted all PASSHE schools to return to faculty-student ratios of the 2010-11 academic year. To get to this goal, schools must cut professors because of the lower student enrollment.
As a result, IUP may need to cut approximately 120 professors.
“We never had a situation before that had the number of letters and reductions that they are talking about going out,” Martin said.
The current student to faculty ratio at IUP is 14 to 1, but with the possibility of retrenchment, those numbers could change to 20 to 1.
Though this might not seem like too much of a difference, she said it would make a lot of areas of learning more difficult, including getting to know students better. This could make receiving letters of recommendation even harder.
According to Martin, the 2010-11 year was chosen because it was the highest point in ratio and enrollment.
Kimberly F., a student from Edinboro, had just listened to Greenstein speak at her school earlier that day. She told the meeting that Greenstein had no concern about the difference in ratio. She asked Martin her opinions on his disconcert.
“There absolutely is a difference,” she said. “Some classes need to be smaller for accreditation.”
Some examples include
nursing classes, which include certain specialties and
Emma McNeely, also of
Edinboro, asked “What has been done to work against retrenchment?”
Though there is very little that can be done because there is no telling who will be cut, Martin said that professors and administrations were trying to work together. This included seeing what other areas professors could be put in so that they could keep their jobs.
This would still prove difficult, however, since a ratio must be met.
Even though the main cause behind retrenchment is ratios, money was also a possible factor.
Nikki Hewitt of West Chester asked Martin how tuition would be affected. She said that PASSHE schools are already in the closest percentile for education funding.
More information about funding can be found at papromise.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/06
As to when retrenchment will begin, professors do not start learning whether or not they are being retrenched until Oct. 30. Letters will be sent to the retrenched tenured professors that day, and others being sent out throughout the rest of the academic year.
Another concern brought up amid retrenchment was Greenstein’s plan on merging schools together for certain programs.
Martin was asked if his announcement on this was premature.
“Premature doesn't capture how problematic that announcement was,” she said.
Sean Crampsie, director of government relations at APSCUF, said there are many steps that need to be taken before merging between schools could take place.
“All those press releases were a piece of paper,” he said. “It does not change anything.”
In order for merging to be possible, Greenstein would need to present a proposal to the PASSHE Board of Governors and receive a majority vote in his favor.
The members of APSCUF said they hope that the board will be careful and see issues with this plan if it were to happen.
Martin said that both merging and retrenchment were important for all students, even those who will be graduating soon. Retrenchment could mean full departments being taken away because it was not certain that retrenchment would be spread evenly across departments.
Cheyney student Amir Curry saw this happen to him personally when the school lost its political science department.
“Consider your younger classmates and what would happen to them if they declare a major and then in a year it's gone,” Martin said.
Even if there are very little answers, there are still ways that students can help advocate for their professors.
APSCUF’s Communication Director Kathryn Morton provided students with information regarding future board meetings, which are open to all.
She also said that student journalists could write letters to the editor.
“I understand that you have to cover all angles, but objective coverage is so helpful to us,” she said.
If needed, Morton said she could provide them with more information in the future regarding APSCUF and retrenchment.
She said that APSCUF’s website also has a Google form for those who were PASSHE students during the 2010-11 year. It is for them to provide feedback in regard to how class sizes affected their learning.
However, the most important thing is to cover faculty when reporting.
“If you hear about faculty events, just cover it and pay attention,” she said.
By covering the events, it could bring more attention to their dilemma and get others outside of the school more involved.
Martin said that the students at the effected schools deserved more chances and were being cheated from opportunities that others schools had.
“I don’t see why all of you are less deserving of smaller classes like Pitt or Temple,” she said. “I don’t see why you are undeserving of the same potential.”
Despite the many questions without answers, the members of APSCUF told students to remain alert.
The next PASSHE Board of Governors meeting will take place Oct. 14.