Earlier this week I shared two recent examples of queen sacrifices. It turns out that the week had more in store than I thought.
Today’s two queen sacrifices come from very different institutions in the American northeast.
First, New Jersey City University announced massive cuts to its academic programs along with reductions to its faculty. This begins by cutting more than one third of its offerings:
The Division of Academic Affairs will reduce its academic portfolio by 37%. To accomplish this reduction, the University is sunsetting 48 undergraduate programs, 24 minors, 28 graduate programs, 10 certificate programs, and one doctoral program.
You can find the whole list here.
Faculty cuts are part of this package: “up to 30 tenured faculty will receive notice that their position may be eliminated as of June 28, 2023. Additionally, the university will not renew the contracts of up to 19 non-tenured annually-appointed faculty…” They will also cut the positions of “some professional staff for the 2023-24 academic year.”
Why take these drastic steps? There is a major economic crisis on campus, as the announcement clearly states. “NJCU entered Fiscal Year 2023 with a structural deficit of more than $20 million and the reduction in its academic portfolio is a crucial step towards the university’s need to reach budget neutrality by June 30, 2023.” It’s a huge problem. According to Wikipedia,
In June 2022, NJCU declared financial emergency and the sought a $10 million lifeline from the state government. Henderson resigned as president of the university, effective July 1. In August, Governor Phil Murphy called for an investigation into NJCU’s dramatic change in financial standing from a surplus of $108 million in 2013 to a deficit of $67 million amid plans to expand NJCU’s campus.
So we have an emergency declaration, state intervention (remember that this is a public university), and a presidential turnover. Externally, Fitch gave the institution a weak rating. (Henderson seems to have done well, financially)
What’s behind the crisis? A Chronicle article begins by identifying student numbers: “[e]nrollment at the Jersey City institution has been declining since 2016 and fell 14 percent during the pandemic.” Bellows adds:
Meanwhile, its efforts to grow its way out of financial trouble backfired. The university ended the 2022 fiscal year with a $13.8-million budget deficit — more than 10 percent of its total budget — and entered the 2023 fiscal year with a projected deficit of $22.6-million.
Inside Higher Ed briefly adds that state appropriations fell.
How did NJCU choose these programs? Enrollment played a role, as the official statement notes: “low enrollment in many courses can be linked to students’ inability to complete their degrees in a timely manner.” Additional factors played roles:
academic deans of each of NJCU’s four colleges — the College of Arts and Sciences, the NJCU School of Business, the College of Education, and the College of Professional Studies — in collaboration with the acting provost, worked to identify which programs to reduce by focusing on the NJCU’s vital role as a minority serving institution and weighing the viability of programs according to mission, market, and margins.
Put another way, perhaps the university’s curriculum was overbuilt for present purpose. A local newspaper reports on a provost’s email, which argued that:
the current academic portfolio is larger than universities double the size of NJCU. She said the academic portfolio has strained administrative capacities, created low-enrolled courses and prevents students from completing their degrees on time.
Breault pointed out that the university’s academic portfolio was 13% larger than Rowan University and contains 47% more programs than Rutgers-Newark “even though they have nearly 2,500 more students enrolled.” Currently there are 6,549 students enrolled.
“We cannot stretch our resources to adequately support and sustain so many programs,” Breault said in an email. ” We struggle to determine the best investments for marketing. We cannot sustain this many programs, and this is why we were charged to reduce our portfolio by at least 30%.”
Interestingly, NJCU has also cut administration. According to the president’s statement, they have already completed
a consolidation of the senior administrative divisions and three vice presidential positions as part of the overarching strategy to eliminate a $20M+ budget deficit. This restructuring will produce an annualized savings of $750k, which supports the $10M in already identified and enacted cost containment measures.
The program cut page adds: “[p]revious measures already implemented include a 41 percent reduction in the management-level workforce at the university since the pandemic — from 125 to 73.”
Our second queen sacrifice comes from just outside of New York City. Manhattanville College has issued a statement which seems to describe a queen sacrifice plan. It doesn’t seem to have been picked up by media, so I’ll proceed with caution.
The article describes a new plan worked out between Manhattanville’s president and its board, with these highlights:
Aligning faculty resources with student needs.
Aligning staff functions to maximize effectiveness.
Freezing undergraduate majors with very low student enrollment.
Not reappointing some tenured faculty.
Creating new, administrative positions for which non-reappointed faculty may apply.
And creating several new interdisciplinary major programs that will help students confront and solve the issues of tomorrow: e.g. climate change.
Again, this is a single document, but perhaps the details are telling. Freezing low-enrollment majors: I’m not sure what that means precisely, but it would mean not allowing new students in, or not offering further classes in those topics. “Aligning faculty resources with student needs” sounds like restructuring class offerings, I think?
“Not reappointing some tenured faculty” is clearly the sound of the ax falling, although it names neither number nor departments.
It’s not clear what motivates this decision. Enrollment doesn’t seem to be in bad shape – indeed, there was an unusual uptick a few months ago. The press release doesn’t specify financial challenges. Instead, there are statements about a changing world, changing students, and the need for the latter to address the former. For example,
Manhattanville is continuously monitoring, evaluating, and seeking to understand and adjust the academic curriculum and overall campus life to the needs of today’s students. Reforming critical functions of the college is required to sustain Manhattanville’s viability for the future. We will continue to work to address key areas, functions, and processes to enhance the student experience. This will result in both academic and administrative staff changes.
I’m interested in climate change as the document’s leading academic topic.
Is the idea to get ahead of these changes and in so doing to avoid enrollment problems down the road?
Well, I will keep an eye on both institutions. And I’ll keep tracking this queen sacrifice trend.