The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

October 4, 2013

Universities cut jobs, HQ adds them

HARRISBURG — Three universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education have announced that they are laying off a combined 94 faculty members this year and five other universities in the system have warned they might also ax faculty positions.

While universities cut jobs in the classroom, the number of employees working at the Harrisburg headquarters of the system increased almost 4 percent from 2012 to 2013, records obtained a under a Right-to-Know request show.

Because of the hires and salary increases, the personnel costs at the state system headquarters increased from $11.7 million in 2012 to $12.65 million this year. And that’s despite the departures of several high-ranking executives including former Chancellor John Cavanaugh, who was making $327,500 when he resigned at the end of 2012. Cavanaugh’s permanent successor has not been named. Peter Garland is serving as acting chancellor at a salary of $285,000 a year.

About one-third of the 158 Harrisburg-based employees are in the Office of the Chancellor. The remaining employees provide administrative services shared by all 14 universities in the system, said PASSHE spokesman Kenn Marshall.

Any hires this year were cases where vacancies were being filled and that the agency did not create new positions, said  Marshall.

Over the past two months, the state system of universities has been rocked by a series of announcements from university officials about layoffs and plans to eliminate academic programs, mostly in foreign languages and music.

Clarion was the first to announce a workforce plan that included laying off 22 faculty and leaving six positions vacant. Clarion will eliminate the music department and two foreign language majors – French and German.

Edinboro released its plan several weeks later. It includes laying off 42 faculty and the elimination of programs in music, music education, German, philosophy, and world languages and cultures.  At the end of September, Mansfield announced it will cut 29 professor jobs, though the exact plan has not been made public.

Given the layoffs and cuts to programs, both the individual universities and the overarching state system ought to examine what management positions are “essential to the core academic mission,” said Lauren Gutshall, a spokeswoman with the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculty.

Officials at universities that are reducing staff said they are including administration.

Slippery Rock University had originally warned of possible layoffs, but university officials now say that no one will lose a job.

Slippery Rock will eliminate about 25 positions by not filling vacancies. No programs are being cut. A university spokesman would not say on Friday how many of the planned job cuts involve faculty.

At Edinboro, the university eliminated 11 management positions between 2008 and 2013, and is axing another six this year, said Edinboro spokesman Jeff Hileman. Five other management jobs are being left vacant, though university administrators have not decided whether they will remain unfilled permanently, Hileman said.

The budget crises have largely been driven by dwindling enrollments. At Edinboro, the student population has decreased 18 percent since 2010.

At universities in the system where enrollment has been steadier, officials have been able to manage their budgets without cuts in staff or reducing programs. Bloomsburg, Indiana, Lock Haven, Millersville, Shippensburg and West Chester all escaped without issuing warnings about possible layoffs, Gutshall said.

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