Year’s end means losing faculty

Olivia C. Gomez, editor-in-chief

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This article is part of a larger series on institutional restructuring. To read more, please visit our website, thelinfieldreview.com. If you would like to provide information or corrections, please email the editor-in-chief at [email protected]

To make up for $2.3 million of the budget gap, 21 percent of Linfield’s 131 tenure and tenure-track faculty positions need to be cut by June 30. Of the 27.5 positions required, five faculty are retiring, which leaves 22.5 positions left to be determined by how many sign voluntary separation offers. The remaining number will be satisfied by non-voluntary separations.

Faculty, Provost Susan Agre-Kippenhan, Dean of Faculty Jackson Miller, Vice President of Finance and Administration Mary Ann Rodriguez and Dean of Students Susan Hopp met for a faculty assembly meeting Monday afternoon in Riley 201 to discuss the budget and restructuring of the college.

“It has been disheartening to hear what is happening more broadly in global languages, in art, in JAMS, in other places across campus,” Faculty Executive Committee Chair John Syring said in his opening to the meeting. “It is more disheartening to know that more of these messages will be on their way. And that’s one of the reasons we were called to session today is to have some discussions about what’s going on across campus.”

After a 30-minute discussion with members of the Portland nursing campus about a proposed amendment to a resolution, Syring returned to the podium to talk about the budget and campus reorganization. He began with a reading of the last message sent to the administration inquiring about the budget and asking it to confirm the following six points. The administration had given no response as of Monday afternoon.

  1. After adjustments to the budget made by the direct reports, we now have a balanced budget to present to the Board of Trustees.
  2. This balanced budget required roughly $2.57 million in position reductions. These reductions are split between staff and faculty and they’re split in the following way: $280,000 in staff and $2.3 million in faculty.
  3. The $2.3 million in faculty reductions to not include those individuals who already declared their intent to retire in the fall or took the early retirement offer.
  4. Given that an average faculty member earns roughly $102,000 in compensation would require about 22.5 faculty positions to make up the $2.3 million budget gap.
  5. Any portion of the $2.3 million gap that is not covered by faculty who signed VSIP offers will be covered by non-voluntary separation offers. We assume that these non-voluntary separation offers will go out in early June. We have not been told.
  6. We have 131 tenured and tenure-track lines in the Linfield faculty. If we add the five positions lost through retirement in the fall to the 22.5 faculty positions that will be required to balance the budget that would bring us to 27.5 positions that we would be down next year compared to this year. That represents a decrease in the Linfield faculty of 21 percent from this year to the next.

“I have heard the president on multiple occasions say that he is a man of his word, that he believes in transparency, and that he will always provide an explanation for his actions no matter how unpopular his decisions,” Syring said. “I think we’re at a point where we need to take him for his word, and that we should expect a total of 22.5 faculty reductions to come between now and the end of June. That’s the best expectation that we have. This budget speaks for itself. We would be foolish to anticipate anything else happening between now and June.”

Of the 17 faculty who applied for the voluntary separation package, 14 were accepted. This does not mean all 14 faculty will be leaving; they have 45 days to accept the offer, which includes one year’s salary, and an additional seven days to change their minds.

Some faculty, who wish to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation, noted the potential strategy in applying for the package in the first place. They indicated it would be a good indicator of who the administration wanted to stay at the institution. However, some expressed concerns that the act of applying alone would demonstrate a desire to leave Linfield and cause them to be cut in the round of non-voluntary separations, should they not accept the package.

Syring then moved to reorganization of the college, which could mean transitioning Linfield into three separate colleges. Those would be the school of nursing, the school of business and economics, and the college of arts and humanities. The FEC, Miller and rising Faculty Trustee Daniel Pollack-Pelzner met with President Miles Davis and his direct reports to discuss college reorganization for one hour on April 16. Syring said the meeting “lacked substance,” emphasizing that as his opinion.

“I need to know the criteria by which we will be judging future organization plans,” Syring said. “Without an understanding of the limitations, or the criteria for making judgments, I am unable to fully engage. I think that the responsibility for framing the need for reorganization falls solely on the administration. If you’re the one that tells us that we have to do it, the you’ve got to get everyone behind you, you’ve got to tell us why it’s important.”

Syring conducted a hand vote and asked faculty five questions relating to their satisfaction with the knowledge the administration has provided to them about reorganization. The McMinnville faculty voted unanimously on the following:

  1. How many of us feel that in order to participate in a college reorganization that the administration needs to provide us with a clear rationale for the need for reorganization? AGREE
  2. How many feel that a clear rationale has been provided? DISAGREE
  3. How many people feel that in order to participate in the process that a clear set of criteria for judging various reorganization plans needs to be established prior to starting the process? AGREE
  4. How many people feel that a clear set of criteria has already been provided? DISAGREE
  5. How many people feel that in order to ensure that a college reorganization is successful that a deadline of next fall seems unreasonable? AGREE

The assembly moved on to a faculty only meeting that allowed them to discuss the state of the college as it directly applied to them. In this closed meeting, a faculty member who prefers to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation called for a vote of no confidence in the provost and the president.

This vote is nonbinding and serves simply as a statement to the Board of Trustees saying that the faculty does not trust the current administration.

The faculty member who called for this vote clarified their motivation in asking for it. “Calling for this vote was an independent action motivated by the grave situation that has emerged over the past six months, as outlined by John Syring,” they said. “I was also moved by the profound attitude of disrespect toward the faculty on the part of the college leadership, and strongly felt that we should fight back against disempowerment.”

Faculty voted a majority of no confidence in Agre-Kippenhan and Davis. The votes were 21 confidence, 51 no confidence and 20 abstentions for the former, and 26 confidence, 50 no confidence and 24 abstentions for the latter.

The Review has been and will continue to cover these issues to inform students. Please contact us with questions or if you think we should explain something in more detail. You can tweet us @linfieldreview.

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