The situation unfolding at Indiana University of Pennsylvania has filled my social media feeds this week. Recently, IUP officials announced “restructuring” of various departments, including the cutting of programs. From the covering of art sculptures and silent choirs to demonstrate a campus without the arts, to faculty union demonstrations, there is a lot going on at IUP.
With faculty layoffs looming, it is a sad situation for both students and faculty at Shippensburg University’s sister school. I have a feeling it is a situation we will continue to see in the coming months at other Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) schools. PASSHE university officials are trying to make financial changes to ensure institutional longevity for its current and prospective students.
I was never excellent at math in high school, but I understand that there must be more money coming in than going out to be financially successful. PASSHE finds itself in this position due to economic conditions, insufficient state funding and a downward trend in declining student enrollment numbers at some institutions.
PASSHE and its individual schools must figure out a way to combat financial issues. But officials must actively remember the students.
More than 100 tenured and tenure-track faculty members at Cheyney, Edinboro, IUP, Lock Haven and Mansfield received retrenchment letters, threatening their jobs. When faculty members are removed, the education experience for students will change — no matter how you present it.
Between classes, paper production and endless scrolling on social media, I scheduled my final semester of classes at SU this week. I only needed nine credits but had to take 12 to remain a full-time student. I realize that as a senior, I have taken a lot of classes. However, there are still many classes and departments in which I have never stepped foot. But the variety of classes available for spring 2021 seemed — oh, how should I describe it — sparce.
Between prerequisites, not being a major/minor and my number of credits, my options were limited. As I searched for classes, most of what I saw were a few sections of introductory classes, with a few classes for upperclassmen sprinkled in. Some departments are offering classes without a professor or course delivery type listed.
One may say it is just a technical error, but I argue that this is a sign of what is happening at IUP and other PASSHE schools.
During the spring semester, PASSHE Chancellor Daniel Greenstein sent “directives” that included curtailing the use of temporary faculty, not filling vacant staff and faculty positions and eliminating low-enrolled programs.
It is evident that SU departments are not offering the same amount and variety of programs at the same frequency they did when I was a freshman. I have heard from professors who are under stress because their departments are unable to use the number of adjuncts they need.
But who suffers the most in all of this? The students.
By eliminating classes, decreasing availability or completely stopping programs, officials can save money. However, the students will bear the stress of trying to coordinate their classes and correctly when finalizing each semester schedule.
Should every class be available every semester? Of course not. But officials must listen to the department chairs when they request to use adjuncts. SU has to offer a variety of classes to ensure its program availability where feasible and commit to leaving “restructuring” off the table.