EVANSVILLE, Ind. (WEHT)- University of Evansville President Christopher M. Pietruszkiewicz shared a statement with university faculty ahead of a no-confidence measure planned for Tuesday’s Faculty Senate meeting.
I am writing in advance of Tuesday’s Faculty Senate meeting to provide an update on some important matters, including governance and the realignment of our academic programs and University operations.
As you know, the Board of Trustees will be meeting later this week and will consider the governance resolution approved by the Faculty Senate and my proposal. As always, we will keep you informed of any decisions resulting from the board meeting.
On the issue of realignment, we are still planning to analyze data and conduct an extensive review of all departments and programs. We have not finalized strategic plans or made any decisions at this time, and the Board of Trustees will not be acting on any potential changes at their October meeting.
As I have said previously, we will share and discuss our plans with the faculty and other UE stakeholders before implementing them. We will work with faculty leadership to solicit your input as soon as we finalize the process that we will use. We expect that will happen within the next month.
That said, I want to be very clear that our work will include reductions in staffing throughout the University and changes to our academic programs. We also will find ways to do some administrative work more efficiently. We no longer can allow inertia to keep UE from making the difficult but necessary decisions that will ensure the long-term success of our University.
I want to remind everyone that there are many positive developments at UE. We have a number of innovative academic offerings, including our new Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP) program that will launch in January, the successful Physician Assistant Program, a Master of Science in Leadership program and a Master of Engineering program. Faculty have also been instrumental in the creation of many other academic initiatives such as Statistics and Data Science, Ethics and Social Change, and Logistics and Supply Chain Management.
New capital projects are under way, including the construction of new student housing and significant progress on a new Wellness and Recreation Center and Walnut Street. We also had the second-highest fundraising year in the history of the University of Evansville. Harlaxton remains the top study abroad program in the country. We hold the distinction of being the first Changemaker campus in Indiana and one of fewer than 50 in the world, encouraging students to creatively and effectively solve challenges they see in our communities. And with the collective help of the UE community, we have been extraordinarily successful in welcoming our students back to campus in the middle of a global pandemic, named as the #4 Best Regional University in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report and #16 in student engagement by the Wall Street Journal among over 4,000 colleges. Thank you for your efforts in making this possible.
I also want to correct some misinformation we have seen in the media and external correspondence. Since 2014, the number of our academic programs has grown each year. During the 2018-2019 school year, UE eliminated a total of five programs and an equal number of faculty and staff positions. After those cuts, total enrollment dropped less than three percent each of the following two years. Also, it is factually incorrect to claim that faculty has borne the brunt of prior budget reductions. Administrative cuts have been proportional to faculty cuts in the last two decades, including the last two years, all at a time in which students expect expanded administrative services such as counseling and career services support.
Six years ago, the University community spent nearly two years engaged in a difficult and controversial prioritization process with the full participation of the faculty and the administration. This process included nearly all of the requirements of the current faculty resolution: conducted with data made available to the faculty, a high degree of faculty participation in reviewing academic programs, and a set of criteria for program sunsets approved by the faculty, all designed to reform UE. The process resulted in a dramatically increased level of anxiety on campus and resulted in few actionable recommendations with no long-term budget savings.
We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of that prioritization process, and we cannot employ a process designed to delay or prevent much-needed alignments across campus to match the demands of prospective students.
Late Friday, I was made aware that the Faculty Senate has placed a no-confidence measure on its agenda for Tuesday. It is both surprising and disappointing that the resolution is being considered at a time in which we have not yet proposed any specific reductions or even the process by which the reductions will be considered. Instead, the resolution contemplates a restoration of confidence in my leadership only if we agree to use a faculty process that is nearly identical to the one that failed six years ago. We cannot allow the same voices of status quo to prevent necessary action from happening again.
As all of us understand, the issues we are facing are not specific to UE. Universities like ours must confront the same immediate financial challenges that have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.
Together, we are building a better future for UE. We must have academic programs that are sustainable. We must continue to offer signature academic and collegiate experiences that set UE apart from our competitors.
I want to assure you that we will seek to preserve and invest in the many positive developments and programs at UE as we proceed with this necessary realignment across the entire University. I look forward to our University emerging from these challenging times even stronger and more vibrant than before the pandemic.
Christopher M. Pietruszkiewicz
University of Evansville