Per the faculty and university contract, five schools in the state system have submitted letters of intent for retrenchment.
The universities that have submitted the letters are California, Cheyney, Clarion, Edinboro and Mansfield.
According to an April 3 Association of Pennsylvania State College & University Faculties (APSCUF) press release, the deadline for Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) was April 1.
In the aforementioned APSCUF press release, APSCUF President Kenneth Mash said, “We understand finances are tight, but cutting programs and faculty members is penny wise and pound foolish. Limiting opportunities will not help universities heal or grow. It certainly does nothing to encourage students to enroll.”
Kenn Marshall, spokesman for the state system, said that these notices are not attempting to get rid of individual faculty, but to eliminate positions from program changes.
“When you make programmatic changes, that may mean eliminating programs where there is no longer a demand and it may mean adding new programs in areas where there’s a high demand,” Marshall said. “But to do that it may require realigning your faculty. That may mean eliminating some positions and creating new positions, and retrenchment is a process by which you can do that.”
Marshall said at this current time no positions that would experience layoffs were identified and that any such position would not be eliminated until the start of the 2018-19 academic year.
“They really were just fulfilling a contractual obligation,” Marshall said. “Really those notices are almost a formality at this point, they start the process going.”
Marshall said that next, the universities will meet with their respective faculty union, to start discussing what positions would be eliminated. He said that over the last six years PASSHE universities have issued about 76 letters of possible retrenchment and of those only nine are no longer working in the system.
Marshall said that if a position was eliminated, retrenchment allows for the faculty member to be transferred to another position or have the first right to accept a position at another university within the system.
“There are all kinds of protections built in,” Marshall said.
Marshall said that the five universities that issued the notices had been talking for some time about refocusing their academic programs, with Cal U wanting to focus more on science and technology programs, Clarion on healthcare, business and teaching and that Edinboro is looking to make sure it’s offering the right programs.
“It’s entirely up to the universities to do this,” Marshall said. “They’re responsible for balancing their own budget.”
Marshall said that by Aug. 1 2017, universities would have to say if they have a need for retrenchment.
“It’s a long process but it’s deliberate,” Marshall said. “It’s so that the universities can work with the faculty union, minimizing the impact of any retrenchments and maybe even avoiding retrenchments entirely.”