The absence of indispensable members of the community will be felt for years
As an alumnus of Allegheny College, I deplore the layoffs of staff, administration, and faculty at the college. Since July 2021, Allegheny has lost 53 community members as part of the administration’s efforts to downsize the school. These community members have contributed immensely to the well-being and success of students and deserve to be prioritized in times of financial hardship.
In response to declining student enrollment in the United States beginning in 2014, College Provost and Dean Ron Cole, 1987, developed a staffing plan in 2017 due to a reduction in the budget of functioning of the college, according to a April 20, 2017, article in Le Campus. He and senior members of the Allegheny administration felt the need to be proactive as enrollment in liberal arts colleges across the United States began to decline.
Since 2017, Cole cited projections of 15% lower student enrollment at higher education institutions as the reasoning behind the endowment plan. As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to President Hilary L. Link, staff reductions that were to take place over 10 years were accelerated.
From the outset of the staffing plan, it is alarming that the administration determined that the best way to balance the college budget was to part ways with valuable and indispensable members of the community who make up the fabric of the experience. of Allegheny. These employees perform the impossible tasks of operating dining halls and academic buildings, serving as chairpersons of entire departments, and teaching courses beloved by students and fondly remembered by alumni.
Despite concerns raised by students and faculty from 2017 to the present, the college has continued to downsize students and faculty. Initially, the plan was to reduce the number of full-time faculty at Allegheny from 170 in the 2016-17 academic year to between 158-162 by 2021-2022, increasing the faculty to student ratio by 10, 5:1 to 12:1. With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the administration clearly felt that further staff reduction was necessary, as faculty ended up being reduced to 129 for 1,500 students enrolled, leaving the school at an 11.6:1 ratio.
Of the 53 positions cut in total, 29 are professors. Those 29 positions account for $1.9 million in faculty salaries, a fraction of Allegheny’s $70 million in total operating expenses in 2021. Additionally, Allegheny’s endowment hit a record $289 million. in 2021 and the school recorded $69 million in revenue, earnings, and other support. without donor restrictions that same year. How can such a small percentage of operating expenses be prioritized over community members who make a difference in the lives of students every day?
This situation does not appear to be about “strategic resource management for a sustainable future,” as Link asserted in an email to Allegheny alumni about the cuts. If it did, the college would prioritize saving staff, administrative positions, and faculty over hugely expensive capital projects like Bentley Hall renovation and the creation of new positions in the administration of Allegheny.
Senior members of the administration have asserted that overall student success is central to current plans to deal with Allegheny’s financial situation. But prioritizing a small amount of operating expenses over members of the community who have dedicated their professional careers to this very principle – overall student success – contradicts this goal, and their absence will be felt at school. for the coming years.
Matthew Steinberg is a 2020 graduate of Allegheny College.