EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WFIE) - The discussion on the realignment plan at the University of Evansville will continue through February.
UE President Christopher Pietruszkiewicz says in the month since the plan was announced, productive conversations have taken place, and he wants them to continue.
This comes a day after the University’s faculty voiced displeasure over the handling of their previous proposals.
The faculty senate proposed the formation of an ad hoc committee to submit their own realignment plan for consideration. The Board of Trustees turned it down, stressing the realignment will affect more than educational policies.
President Pietruszkiewicz says the extension comes because they still want to hear faculty suggestions that are more acceptable.
“As we’ve been saying for the last 30 days, there is more parts to the program,” President Pietruszkiewicz said. “This is the academic alignment part of the program, in which we’re asking the faculty to continue to provide their input, and we’ll continue that over the next 45 days or so.”
Pietruszkiewicz says he hopes the extension opens a dialogue to allow faculty to help determine the outcome, so long as it still helps the University save money.
However, members of the faculty said they don’t feel there has been any dialogue up to this point.
History Professor and American Association of University Professors spokesman James MacLeod said that he felt the university’s initial realignment proposal, which he said was drafted solely by administration and third party groups, immediately put faculty in a position where they had no voice.
“Telling a bunch of people that they’re fired, holding a gun to their head, and saying, ‘Well, can you come up with something better?’; I wouldn’t call that negotiation,” MacLeod said.
He said that he believes the 45-day extension to the discussion period “is not a particularly meaningful gesture.”
According to MacLeod, all attempts by the faculty to make meaningful changes have been rebuffed. He said a brief extension is unlikely to change that.
“Honestly, I don’t know how much hope there is,” he said. “I think there’s a tremendous amount of damage that’s already been done to the good name and the reputation of the university.”
The plan, if approved, would eliminate some majors and staff.
President Pietruszkiewicz told 14 News that while he does recognize that the decision is going to affect people and their families, he still has a responsibility to keep the school in a position to stay open and move forward
Here is the full letter sent Friday from President Pietruszkiewicz:
Dear Administration and Staff:
I want to update you on the draft academic realignment plan we announced in early December.
Today, I informed the faculty that we will be extending the comment, discussion, recommendation, and proposal period for the draft realignment plan until the end of February. In the last month since I shared the announcement of the draft academic realignment plan, the University of Evansville administration has had productive conversation with some members of the faculty and UE community. We want to continue those discussions.
Beginning Monday, we will open the election window for the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program which will allow certain faculty members to leave the University at the end of the semester in exchange for one year of base salary without teaching duties or other University responsibilities and a $10,000 health-care assistance payment. This program will be open to those faculty members for the next 45 days.
The Voluntary Separation Incentive Program is a key element in the realignment plan and our ongoing efforts to reduce the University’s operating deficit. The program is open to all full-time faculty in the following departments and majors: Art History, Biology, Chemistry, Creative Writing/English, Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, Foreign Languages and Cultures, History, Math, Music, Philosophy & Religion, Physics, and Political Science.
The extension period for additional comments, discussion, recommendations, and proposals, along with the outcome of this voluntary program could, and likely will, affect the final realignment plan and avoid the elimination of some occupied faculty positions and majors included in the draft academic alignment plan.
We know that this is an unsettling time. Demographic trends are forcing significant changes at many universities. The COVID-19 pandemic has compounded those challenges.
These proposed changes are painful. But we must address UE’s operating deficit. With strategic cost-cutting and allocation of additional resources to areas of growth, UE can be in a position to succeed for decades to come. Failing to take action now threatens to cause much deeper pain in the years ahead.
We will continue to provide updates as we receive additional feedback about the draft academic realignment plan and the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program.
Christopher M. Pietruszkiewicz
University of Evansville