YSU faculty union denounces possible layoffs, cuts or elimination
Youngstown State University Provost Office for Academic Affairs sent a letter to the facility on Monday stating YSU is looking at the university's sustainability by looking at enrollment and enrollment trends, which is not encouraging.
According to the letter, enrollment for the fall semester is down 4 percent in full-time students.
The letter, sent by Brien Smith, Provost & Vice President for Academic Affairs at YSU reads, "An associated decline in revenue combined with a significant existing structural financial deficit require a response now that will guide YSU to a sustainable future."
The letter stated while YSU recent initiatives including online graduate programs and improving retention and graduation rates, the university said unless new ways are found to contain costs, harsher action may be needed, including retrenchment (lay-off), non-renewal or closure for the following areas in 11 departments, which are:
- Department of Accounting and Finance
- Department of Art, includes digital media, photography, design
- Department of Communication, which includes broadcasting, public speaking, media relations, social media, scriptwriting, journalism and telecommunications.
- Department of Criminal Justice and Consumer Sciences
- Dana School of Music and Theatre
- Department of English & World Languages
- Department of Health Professions
- Department of Humanities and Social Sciences
- Department of Mathematics and Statistics
- Department of PAGES
- Department of Teacher Education and Leadership Studies
The University stated the reasons these departments were being looked at include low enrollment; under-enrolled classes in junior and senior levels; falling enrollment and low student demand from the market; low market growth potential; poor mission fit with the department and college; and low student/faculty ratios (generally evidenced by low/under-enrolled classes).
"You have to look at what other programs, 10 years down the road, that are going to be in demand by students, so we're trying to prepare for that because you need to have the solid enrollment to have the institution to be viable," Smith said.
YSU is offering a Voluntary Separation or Retirement Program (VSRP) for professors and staff, which started on Sept. 13.
The letter also said that not knowing how many facility members may respond to the VSRP offer makes it not known if entire departments will be reduced, adjusted, or closed.
YSU-OEA, the union representing faculty at Youngstown State University, denounced the Provost's letter to cut programs and faculty.
“It’s impossible to overstate how much chaos this creates for our students,” YSU-OEA President, Mark Vopat, said. “Our courses and programs should be our top priority as a university. Instead, YSU’s administration is taking a hatchet to education while refusing to address administrative bloat and overspending on athletics,” Vopat said.
“This makes two years in a row that YSU has turned first to our programs and professors to make cuts,” Vopat explained. “Administration is using preliminary numbers and estimates to make permanent and damaging cuts to academic offerings at YSU.”
Smith closed the letter with, "Overall, as demographic challenges continue, the intent is to build the appropriate academic and organizational structures that recognize the needs of the workforce and community while at the same time continuing to achieve a sustainable and prosperous Youngstown State University."
YSU-OEA Union spokesperson Dr. Mark Vopat said he's "extremely concerned" about the future of the university.
“It’s impossible to overstate how much chaos this creates for our students,” Vopat said, “Our courses and programs should be our top priority as a university. Instead, YSU’s administration is taking a hatchet to education while refusing to address administrative bloat and overspending on athletics.
Last year, YSU discontinued 26 programs at the university.
The school has seen a large enrollment decrease in recent years. About 11 percent less students attended the school in Fall 2021 compared to Fall 2018. The enrollment drop was projected to decrease revenue from tuition and fees by $5.6 million in 2021.