Edinboro University to lay off 30-plus on faculty

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Edinboro University said it will lay off fewer faculty members than anticipated, but it was unclear how much of its multi-million dollar budget deficit would be reduced by those cuts.

The university announced Friday that faculty layoffs include the possible "retrenchment" of six tenured or tenure-track faculty in the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences and the elimination of 25.8 full-time-equivalent temporary faculty, effective at the end of the academic year. Also, five unfilled positions will be left vacant.

"When you don't honor the promise of tenure, you're saying the university is in such dire straits," said faculty union president and professor Jean Jones.

Other managers and staff employed by the university will also be or have been let go, said university spokesman Jeffrey Hileman, who added that about 8 percent have been eliminated in the past three years.

"Retrenchment is a difficult process; we deeply value all of our faculty and even one letter is painful and unfortunate, but the university must face its financial realities," university president Julie Wollman said in a message to faculty and staff.

Friday's cuts are based on a September workforce plan intended to erase a deficit this year of about $6.5 million in the university's $95 million budget by cutting programs and more than 50 employees, including 42 faculty positions. The size of the faculty will be reduced to less than 350 under the plan.

Edinboro has a projected a deficit of $10 million for the 2014-15 year but said it was unclear how faculty cuts announced Friday would impact that deficit.

Additional faculty cuts were avoided through savings made in at least one retirement, elimination of temporary positions and new revenue generation, the university said.

Ms. Jones said the goal of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties is to have retrenchment letters rescinded.

"To lay off six tenured faculty, they've got it down as far as they can, so why can't we save the rest of them?" she said.

The average faculty member teaches eight classes per year, Ms. Jones said, and these cuts will eliminate sections and increase the number of students in classes.

"For the students, it's incredibly stressful," she said.

A moratorium of several bachelor of arts programs proposed in the plan remains.

Students already enrolled in German, philosophy and world languages and cultures will continue to be taught, but no new students will be accepted, Mr. Hileman said. Those programs will eventually be eliminated, although he said he does not expect employees to be cut as the programs dissolve.

"We're hoping what we're going through is the limit" of cuts, Mr. Hileman said.

Earlier this month, the university said the music and music education programs would continue with fewer faculty.

Friday's announcement came a day after some students, alumni and faculty who oppose the cuts had staged an impromptu sit-in outside Ms. Wollman's office.

Edinboro, like most of the 14 State System of Higher Education universities, has felt the impact of a sluggish economy: enrollment losses tied to a decline in high school graduate numbers and a state appropriation that is 18 percent smaller than a few years ago.

The university says it has lost 18 percent of its enrollment since 2010, including a projected 4.5 percent decline this fall to 7,098 students.

"Basically what we're doing is bringing the size of all employee groups to the enrollment of students," Mr. Hileman said.

An additional 31 faculty positions had been eliminated last year, Ms. Jones said.

State System chancellor Frank Brogan said in a statement that "President Wollman and her leadership team have my full support as they announce their retrenchment plans."

Faculty leaders at another state university, East Stroudsburg University, said Wednesday they have been notified that up to 30 professors could be let go, with notifications set to go out as early as next week. Ken Mash, an East Stroudsburg professor and vice president of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties, said the figure was provided by provost Van Reidhead as the union met with the school administration this week.

If made, the cuts in tenured and tenure-track positions would push announced professor layoffs across the State System of Higher Education toward 160. 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.

Lexi Belculfine: lbelculfine@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1878. Twitter: @LexiBelc. The Associated Press contributed.

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