East Stroudsburg University faculty say administration plans professor layoffs

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East Stroudsburg University faculty leaders said today they have been notified that up to 30 professors could be let go starting next week, making it Pennsylvania’s fourth state-owned university to lay off faculty amid budget trouble.

Ken Mash, a professor at East Stroudsburg and state vice president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, said the school’s provost, Van Reidhead, provided the figure during a meeting Tuesday between the faculty union and administration.

If made, the cuts in tenured and tenure-track positions would push announced professor layoffs across the State System of Higher Education toward 130. Since August, Clarion, Edinboro and Mansfield universities have announced planned program and employee cuts, including roughly 100 professor layoffs, to address declining enrollment, sharp reductions in state aid and rising costs in a slow-rebounding economy.

Brenda Friday, a university spokeswoman, said today that union and management on her campus did meet Tuesday but she could not provide specifics pending completion of a workforce plan expected to be made public later this month.

"I can’t confirm anything until the workforce plan is finished," she said.

Mr. Reidhead was not available for comment.

Mr. Mash said the administration plans to notify affected faculty by letter beginning next week. Under the union's contract, layoffs likely would occur at the end of the academic year.

Management already has said an unspecified number of adjunct professors also will be let go next semester, Mr. Mash said.

"This is not just a question about our faculty," he said. "This is a question about the quality of education that will be delivered at East Stroudsburg. It hurts everything we have worked for throughout our careers, and it particularly hurts students."

Across the 14-university State System, headcount enrollment that peaked at 119,500 students three years ago has declined by about 7,200 students to 112,300 as of this fall.

East Stroudsburg’s enrollment of 6,778 students is down 2.4 percent from a year ago and 8.2 percent from 2010.

Ms. Friday said the university’s projected deficit for 2014-2015 is about $6.9 million, of which about $3 million is a carryover from the 2013-2014 fiscal year.

In recent weeks, 12 under-enrolled academic departments along with the nonacademic department of counseling and psychological services are under review.

Ms. Friday said East Stroudsburg’s administration is working to provide the campus and local communities with current, accurate information about program reorganization and retrenchment. She said a final decision about retrenchment has not been made.

"Our goal in all of this is to maintain the same high quality of academic excellence for our students, minimize any impact on university personnel, and work toward the adoption and implementation of a more pragmatic budget model," she said. "Decisions such as these are not easy nor taken lightly, but must be made in order for (East Stroudsburg) to continue to provide a quality education to student and fulfill the University’s mission."

Bill Schackner: bschackner@post-gazette.com, 412-263-1977. Twitter: @BschacknerPG.

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