Lock Haven, Pa. – Professors and community members are joining forces to fight against the proposed integration of Lock Haven University, Mansfield University, and Bloomsburg University. According to them, the integration plan will lead to hundreds losing their jobs and will have a devastating effect on the local economy.
The Pennsylvania’s State System of Higher Education’s (PSSHE), under the direction of Chancellor Daniel Greenstein, voted on Oct. 14 to move forward with the plan, which would involve the integration of six state schools organized into two groups.
According to a press release by PSSHE, the integrated schools would “operate as a single accredited entity with a single leadership, faculty, enrollment management strategy, and budget while honoring local identity.”
The integration plan may actually be a wolf in sheep’s clothing, however, and many university staff and community members are saying it could cause more harm than good for the local economy.
Less than a month after the PSSHE voted to move forward with integration, two faculty members at Lock Haven University received notice that their positions would be terminated at the end of the academic year. Additionally, the positions of over 100 staff and faculty members are expected to be furloughed or eliminated as a result of the integration plan.
The university also placed a moratorium on many university programs, including Art, Foreign Languages, Geology, International Studies, Music, Physics, Political Science, and Alternative Education.
Dr. Eddie Severn, Associate Professor of Music at Lock Haven University, was one of the faculty who was terminated. “I am just one of hundreds of university faculty and staff members across the state who will lose their jobs over the next few years. The sheer scale of the current and future job losses, especially in the more rural areas of the state, are breathtaking,” he said.
According to Greenstein and the PSSHE, the faculty and staff cuts are necessary steps to achieving their financial goal. The PSSHE also wants student to faculty ratios at the Universities to return to what they were in 2010/2011, when there were fewer teachers and more students.
The schools have two years to do this.
"This means LHU would have to go from a ratio of 13.9 to 18.3 in just two years,” said Peter Campbell, Professor of Sport Studies at Lock Haven University. “The original timeframe was five years, and everyone felt comfortable that LHU could attain this goal. However, in April the Chancellor reduced the timeframe to two years. This is leading to reductions in faculty, staff, and management at LHU and the other PASSHE sister schools.”
“With his mandate that the 2010-2011 all-time high student faculty ratio be attained by all PASSHE schools–during a pandemic and within just two years– Greenstein has given an impossible remit to his university presidents,” said Sevren. “They [university presidents] are forced to furlough necessary and even essential faculty and eliminate programs needed to attract students. They [university presidents] are forced to cannibalize their institutions.”
As part of ongoing efforts push back against the PSSHE, Chancellor Greenstein, and the integration plan, members of the university and the local community planned a peaceful protest.
The “No-Merger March” will take place on Tuesday, Nov. 17 at 12:30 p.m. The event will start at at the newly unveiled Bald Eagle statue on the Campus Quad (Green) across from Ulmer Hall.
“Those in attendance, will march from the LHU campus to Triangle Park in downtown Lock Haven. There will be a small "protest skit", chants, and speakers. Masks will be required, and social distancing guidelines will be followed,” said Richard Goulet, an Associate Professor of History at Lock Haven University and an organizer of the protest.
In the meantime, the question remains: As schools move forward with the integration plan, what will happen to the excess managers, faculty, and staff?
Updated on 11/9/2020: The department of Athletic training is no longer included in the moratorium.