Two Pennsylvania campuses sacrifice the queen

Pennsylvania State System of Higher EducationTwo Pennsylvania State System of Higher Ed institutions ended several academic programs and fired their faculty.   This RIF-fing of eight professors looks like another example of what I’ve been calling the queen sacrifice: a campus cutting full-time instructional staff and programs as a survival gambit.

At East Stroudsburg, two music professors were advised on Wednesday that their jobs will disappear, along with all music courses as well as the university’s choral program and orchestra, at the end of the year.

Those two faculty members are – were –  tenured.

At Cheyney, faculty union President Ken Mash said on Thursday six faculty members were told they would be without a job at the end of the academic year – one in biology, two in business, one in education, one in fashion merchandising and a librarian.

Money plays a huge role here, of course. Apparently the Cheyney move was motivated by financial pressures.  Those may have been caused by racially-motivated unequal distribution of resources within the Penn system; so argues a new lawsuit.

The financial aspect to the East Stroudsburg cuts is less clear.  ESU doesn’t seem to be suffering general economic problems, at least according to one source in the linked article.  The university’s president argued that music programs weren’t eliciting private donations:

“We talk about people not donating to the university anymore. If we had significant donations to the music program, we would be in a different place.”

If ESU is not suffering overall financial problems, and this specific program cut is aimed at the department’s own donation score, then perhaps we’re seeing a new aspect to the queen sacrifice.  Institutions will weigh individual programs for their fund-raising achievements, then reshape their staffing accordingly.

Also unusual are the cuts to a STEM field (biology) and the usually very popular business department.  The humanities reductions (music) and education are more the norm.

Cheyney is also an HBCU, one of the first ever established.  That sector of higher education has been experiencing financial and enrollment challenges since 2008.

(via Recession Realities in Higher Education; thanks to George Station and Chris Millet for editing assistance)

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3 Responses to Two Pennsylvania campuses sacrifice the queen

  1. clsaarinen says:

    After reading this post I did a quick search of neighboring colleges that offer music degrees. When I visited their site, Lafayette College (Easton PA) had a jazz singer on the home page plus a sidebar referencing MTV. Smart idea in a market where parents and students are looking for alternatives to the East Stroudsburg music program.

    Is it possible that small colleges could sustain themselves as proprietors of specialty items, like music degree programs, that are not offered at big box store universities?

    • Yes indeed. Some have been calling for this very thing, as an alternative to the “everyone wants to be Harvard” model of covering everything.

      Now, can this happen without laying off tenured faculty?

  2. Pingback: State budget crisis now causes Pennsylvania public higher education accreditation challenge | Bryan Alexander

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