Provost Ron Cole Presents Staffing Plan Highlights to ASG General Assembly – Campus

This week’s Allegheny Student Government General Meeting featured Provost Ron Cole, 1987, who presented the potential outcome of his report on faculty staffing and the fate of certain academic programs on campus, which will be voted on by the board of directors this weekend. A decision will be announced by February 6.

According to ASG Vice President Sophie Adams, ’22, while faculty have full access to the aforementioned report, “it is not being released to students in its entirety.”

Adams called the Assembly to order at 7:32 p.m. on Tuesday, February 1, in room 301/302 of the Henderson Campus Center.

Cole began his presentation with a graph of the number of high school graduates in the United States from 2000 and projected to 2031. He pointed out that in 2014, the same year the number of high school graduates in the nationally declined, Allegheny was unable to meet its incoming student target, then between 2021 and 2022 there was a natural decline in the number of high school graduates largely due to COVID- 19.

“I would like to draw your attention to what happened from the year (20)24-25,” Cole said. “This is the beginning of a significant decline in the population of traditional-age high school graduates. This is projected for the Northeast and Midwest of the United States until a 15% drop in the number of high school graduates.

Cole explained that due to failure to meet student recruitment goals starting in the year 2014, the college began strategically recruiting fewer students to reduce the size of the student body from 2,100 to about 1,700 so that resources can be distributed more efficiently. COVID-19 has led to a larger drop in student enrollment than expected, with approximately 1,500 students currently enrolled.

“The prudent thing to do is to recalibrate, to maintain that number…rather than trying to grow into a bigger school again,” Cole said. “With fewer students, we will need fewer employees. That’s what started this whole process.

During 2017-2018, Allegheny launched a retirement incentive – taken by 23 faculty and 22 non-teaching staff – which helped the college level the staff in anticipation of dwindling student numbers. Cole suggested those retirements would have been enough to accommodate the dwindling student body, but declining enrollment due to COVID-19 has exacerbated the need to cut back.

After reviewing student interest and the financial feasibility of maintaining college programs, the college program review task force classified college programs into one of four categories: those in which to invest strategically (black studies and environmental sciences and sustainability), reconfiguring (such as philosophy and religion studies), those that will be difficult to sustain (such as public interest journalism), and those to retain. Cole clarified that each program will be adjusted to some extent, but those not mentioned are more stable than those featured.

The college currently has 154 full-time faculty, although the goal is to reduce that number to 129 by the 2024–25 academic year. Cole explained that the majority of those cuts are voluntary, whether they be resignations or retirements, not layoffs or dismissals.

Following the presentation, ASG responded to questions and comments from constituents and other ASG members on topics such as the fate of the dance and movement studies minor and what constituent Joel Zove, ’23, perceived the lack of new information compared to what was published in December, with the report of the Task Force on the review of university programs. Sydney Hammerman, 25, inquires about the recommended course of action for students who have not yet declared a major and are interested in one of the programs to be eliminated.

“We have a plan for this, but I need to let others know where they fit into the plan, so stay tuned for what to do if you’re in that category,” Cole said. “We’ll likely help you research other areas that might match your interests rather than continuing to pursue an area that’s going to be dropped.”

Student response to Cole’s presentation was mixed.

Although Sasha Holguin, 24, is glad Cole chose to deliver it ahead of the release of the final report, she said “it’s his job to be there” and added her belief that the approach the college was adopting to accommodate declining student numbers was not “sustainable.” Majoring in Cinema and Digital Storytelling and minoring in Chinese, she expressed concern about the future of these two departments in which she chose to study.

Hammerman echoed Zove’s belief that the information conveyed to this Assembly was no different from that conveyed in the December report.

“My first thought when it all wrapped up was that it was basically…with a few changes, the report we got back in December,” Hammerman said. “The school wanted to commit to transparency, and I feel like they’re still not 100% transparent about everything.”

Hammerman also spoke about the lack of publicity around and lack of communication outside of the student committees Cole worked with, including the finance and facilities committee, resulting in less student input than what has been claimed. If a student isn’t involved in these committees and isn’t a member of the ASG, Hammerman said, “(they) don’t know anything until it’s already been done.”

Later in the Assembly, Director of Finance Lucas Biniewski, 23, said the aforementioned Finance and Facilities Committee currently has vacancies, and students interested in filling those seats can contact Chief of Staff Genesis Pena. .

Samantha Russell, 23, and Sasha Eager, 22, came to this particular assembly to represent the dance department and see what was going to happen with the minor in dance and movement studies. Russell was “surprised and a bit annoyed that it wasn’t mentioned on the slides because (Cole) said they were talking about revising the program”. Meanwhile, Eager “(felt) a little bit better that he had at least made the case that the dance is important and will somehow stick around,” Eager said.

Although the presentation was intended to dispel ambiguities about academic programs and the staffing situation, like a number of other students, Zove was left with more concerns and questions than peace of mind and answers.

“I really feel like the administration could be a lot more transparent about this,” 23-year-old Joel Zove said. “On the one hand, obviously, it was an ASG meeting during module one, when a lot of students aren’t on campus…I’m hoping for a lot more opportunities for students to have their voices heard and a lot more students to make their voices heard, especially because it was the students’ responsibility to contact the administration to find out what was going on.

One thing that was not discussed at the meeting, and which Zove considered important given the drop in student enrollment, is the college’s decision regarding on-campus masking. Although this was a more recent situation, he believed it dealt with a larger issue that students with disabilities wishing to come to Allegheny faced.

“It really lets students with disabilities know how much the administration values ​​them and makes them choose their school accordingly based on that real lack of consideration that we’ve seen,” Zove said.

Cole repeatedly emphasized during the presentation that student feedback – including that provided during his weekly office hours at the Henderson Campus Center, the date and time of which are posted weekly on MyAllegheny – has and will continue. to be essential to the continued restructuring of the University.

“It helped shape my thinking and the work that was done around this process,” Cole said. “Please work with us. Don’t make assumptions.

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