The College of Saint Rose (NY) faces a $9.3 million deficit and declining enrollment. “It’s a challenging time in higher education and it’s not for the faint of heart,” President Carolyn Stefanco recently remarked. “Change is really hard for people, and higher education is changing in pretty dramatic ways.”
As reported by the Chronicle, the president announced on Friday the changes that she and the board of trustees are bringing to Saint Rose this year: the elimination of more than two dozen academic programs and the termination of 23 faculty–including several with tenure–effective December 29, 2016.
“In identifying programs for consolidation, elimination, or reduction and identifying reduction of faculty,” says President Stefanco’s announcement letter, “the College took into account enrollment levels and trends, as well as other relevant considerations, including curricular needs arising from the College’s degree requirements, accreditation standards, and teacher and other professional licensure requirements.” Tellingly, especially from a shared governance perspective, faculty input is not listed as one of the “relevant considerations.” Indeed, the very next line of the president’s letter lists the decision makers: “The Deans, the President’s Cabinet, and the Board of Trustees have worked diligently to develop a balanced and thoughtful plan to meet the changing needs of our current and prospective students while minimizing the impact on our faculty.”
Saint Rose faculty are not taking the news lying down. “President Carolyn Stefanco,” according to a statement from the Faculty Association, “has never brought proposals for program cuts to any faculty committee for a vote which was required under the principles of shared governance. The College’s Board-approved Governance Document makes it clear that faculty are responsible for curricular and academic matters, including any program reductions or terminations. This top-down, unilateral process demonstrates clearly that Saint Rose faculty no longer have a voice in the governance of the college.” The local AAUP chapter has organized a number of creative upcoming events to protest the cuts. And, in response to a Northeast Public Radio interview with President Stefanco, Dr. Angela Ledford, vice president of the chapter, delivered a sharp critique of the president and board that is well worth listening to. It concludes: “The faculty, many of whom have served for decades, embody the St. Rose difference. The current rushed and non-consultative process being pursued by the administration at St. Rose, centrally motivated by market data, narrow and short-term industry interests, and profit-seeking rather than a rigorous, broad-based liberal arts and sciences education will prove to be disastrous for the institution and its students.”
Saint Rose students and alumni agree and–as we have seen at other institutions recently attacked by their own governing boards and presidents–have joined with faculty in active opposition. Alumni have been particularly vocal, initiating an online petition and establishing both a Facebook page and a Twitter account.
It is worth mentioning one final aspect of the unilateral decisions they are protesting. President Stefanco’s letter points out that the faculty victims of her “academic prioritization” process will receive help. In true corporate fashion, it will consist of “career transition assistance provided by a firm specializing in higher education outplacement.”