Faculty members at East Stroudsburg University learned yesterday that some of them may not have jobs in the near future. ESU administrators dropped the bomb at a meeting between the university administration and representatives of the ESU chapter of the faculty union, APSCUF. In an email to faculty, the president of the ESU chapter of APSCUF, Nancy VanArsdale, wrote:
Dear ESU-APSCUF Members,
APSCUF and the Administration held a Meet and Discuss meeting on Tuesday, May 14, 2013. I regret to inform you that the Administration handed APSCUF a letter announcing the possibility of retrenchment of faculty and other employees, in accordance with Article 29 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. The letter has been shared with State APSCUF, and to date, I believe we are the only campus to have received such a letter from the Administration in Spring 2013. Such a letter does not mean that retrenchment will definitely happen, but represents a very serious concern for all of us. ESU-APSCUF received such a letter about three years ago, and three ESU faculty were retrenched. Those faculty held 12-month positions, and they had the opportunity to reapply for 9 or 10-month positions, at a very significant reduction in salary. That same year in PASSHE, faculty at several other PASSHE universities were also retrenched, some of them losing their positions entirely, in several instances after careers of 20 plus years. In other cases, retrenched faculty were able to utilize provisions of the CBA and attain positions at other PASSHE universities. Absolutely no specific retrenchment decisions have been announced, but such a letter triggers the commencement of a process. ESU-APSCUF encourages faculty to review Article 29 of the Collective Bargaining Agreement. We will keep you informed.
In 2010, faculty received such a letter at a sister PASSHE school, Kutztown University. Retrenchment at Kutztown University led to the elimination of the Nursing program, the Theater department, the nationally recognized Advising Center, and other programs. As reported in the Morning Call in October 2010, retrenchment led to the elimination of six faculty positions. The loss of faculty positions announced in October 2010 came after Kutztown University administration had already initiated deep cuts earlier that year:
In May, the school made $4.2 million in cuts, eliminating 39 custodial, administrative, management and temporary faculty jobs — 29 of which were already vacant — and ending a mentoring course for disadvantaged youth. The school also said it would eliminate its vehicle fleet.
“Given the projected budget shortage our institution faces, we must continue with the tough decisions we made earlier this year,” university President F. Javier Cevallos said in a news release. “While moving forward with these reductions is extremely difficult, they are necessary to deal with our financial challenges.”
However, as first reported in the blog APSCUF-KU XChange, the administration’s claims that it was in a deep budget hole turned out to be specious as best. Kutztown University was sitting on a $29.1 million SURPLUS, second only to West Chester University in financial health [to read the full back story on Kutztown's "budget crises" check out "The Persistence of Crisis @ Kutztown U: Work Harder or Fight Back" at Raging Chicken Press].
Of course, the retrenchment experience at Kutztown may prove a poor guide for faculty and staff at East Stroudsburg University. Just two universities that happen to be in the same State System and who fell into budget holes, right? Perhaps.
However, one detail of the timing of East Stroudsburg’s retrenchment announcement should at least raise concern. On May 3, East Stroudsburg announced it hired a new Vice President for Administration and Finance. A man by the name of Ken Long. Here’s the email sent out to the university community:
After an extensive national search, it is my pleasure to announce the appointment of Mr. Kenneth Long, M.B.A., as the Vice President of Administration and Finance for East Stroudsburg University, effective July 1. Ken comes to us from Kutztown University where he serves as Assistant Vice President for Administration and Finance since 2008. He also served as Interim Vice President for Finance and Administration at Cheyney University for six months in 2012. These appointments, in addition to earlier positions with the University of Toledo, and DeVry University, indicate that Ken brings to ESU more than 25 years of progressive work experience in higher education.
Ken earned a bachelor of arts degree in math and political science from Drew University in Madison, N.J. and an M.B.A. from Monmouth University, West Long Branch, N.J. He has experience teaching courses in business administration, financial accounting and managerial accounting and has made presentations at a number of regional and national meetings and conferences. Among his many accomplishments, Ken initiated KU’s first multi-year financial forecast, re-aligned KU’s operating budget to provide $1 million to support the strategic plan, successfully coordinated over $20 million in expenditure reductions to meet financial and strategic objectives, and participated in the implementation of integrated information systems (Banner, Oracle/PeopleSoft, Lawson and Cognos).
At ESU, Ken will report directly to the President and will serve as ESU’s Chief Financial Officer. Core university operations reporting to the Ken will include the business office (Accounting and Budget), procurement and contracting, facilities management, computing and communication services, public safety, human resources and the office of diversity and equal opportunity.
Sheer coincidence? Maybe.
But maybe we are seeing PASSHE’s version of Ryan Bingham the “corporate downsizing expert” played by George Clooney in the 2009 film, Up in the Air. The fact is, we don’t know at this point and Ken Long will not officially begin to wield his wrecking ball…rrrr…I mean, start his position until July 1, 2013. For the sake of East Stroudsburg University faculty, staff, and students, let’s hope Mr. Long has already “seen the light” and has put his corporate downsizing experience behind him, cashing in his frequent flyer miles for a home in the Poconos.
A faculty member who did not wish to be named because he is not an official spokesperson for ESU-APSCUF or the faculty, described the news this way:
It all feels like yet another McCrisis being invented at ESU by the administration for reasons that have nothing to do with student education. It adds to an increasingly toxic atmosphere on campus, too. There is less than zero mutual trust between faculty and the administration at this point.
Did I mention that East Stroudsburg University will be holding its 2013 Commencement Ceremonies in two days? Happy trails.
No Worries: Retrenchment as an Opportunity to Dream