Faculty searches suspended

By Emily Losito

Associate Editor

Eleven faculty position openings listed on the Notice Board in December disappeared in January. Six positions in the School of Arts & Sciences, two in the School of Education and three in the School of Business were taken down at the beginning of the 2017 spring semester.

Several faculty searches have been suspended, according to Joseph Zimmer, Ph.D., St. Bonaventure University provost and vice president for academic affairs.

The main reason, according to Maureen Cox, Ph.D., is a budgetary concern. She said President Andrew Roth wants to protect the people employed here already.

David Hilmey, Ph.D., dean of arts and sciences, said, “The budgetary shortfalls resulted from increased enrollment and [Bonaventure doesn’t] have the same operating budget.”

Cox, an associate professor and department chair of mathematics, said although several searches were approved, “We don’t want to spread ourselves too thin.”

Hilmey, as associate professor of chemistry, said the arts and sciences department will spread the load of teaching.

“We’ll manage the course load to find people to fill in where we need them,” he said.

Zimmer said, “We’ve seen enrollment pressures the past six or seven years…. Part of my job is to make sure the number of faculty is appropriate to the number of students.”

He said the chairs of the departments, deans, the president, the institutional research and he are responsible for the research on the number of classes that need new faculty.

Hilmey said, “The cybersecurity and chemistry positions had been filled in the fall. The other searches had not concluded, or had not been completed, so they were suspended…. I’m certainly hopeful that [the searches] will be brought back in the fall,” Hilmey said.

Zimmer said there are 19 steps to hiring a new faculty member. When the search committee, consisting of faculty in and outside of the department, narrow the potential hires to three people, the school pays for their expenses to come out to Bonaventure and stay at the hotel across the street, according to Zimmer.

He said the faculty at Bonaventure ’s has been aging. The school has a new “phasing out” retirement plan that allows retiring professors to slowly decrease their workload or drop down to teaching part-time and then fully retire.

“It’s sad when someone leaves who has been here since the 60s. They’ve seen a lot and have a lot of experience….Then you have someone new with a new shot of energy that’s young and can relate to the students easily,” Zimmer said.

Class sizes are also taken into account, according to Zimmer. Small class sizes and too many professors drive prices up for students attending Bonaventure.

“Some vacancies can be handled by adjunct professors,” Zimmer said.

“We hope that we can manage the course load and to find individuals to fill in where we need them,” Hilmey said.

Bonaventure has a number of plans to increase enrollment numbers, according to Zimmer.

“The admissions office has really sharpened….It’s a tough marketplace for potential freshmen,” he said.

Other programs, like the Military Aligned and Allied Health programs, aim to drive enrollment up. He said last year Bonaventure had 32 student veterans, and they’re hoping for 200 next year.

Zimmer said there have been 10 faculty hired this year. Hilmey added that the professor and director of cybersecurity has been filled.

“This is not an easy process. In some cases, we can handle it; in other instances, we’re trying to find ways to handle it,” he said. “We’re not at a point where we feel we have this suspension under control, but we’re hoping we can get there.”

One thought on “Faculty searches suspended

  • February 16, 2017 at 8:07 pm
    Permalink

    Greetings!

    I am writing to comment on several recent University programs aimed at reducing its number of employees.

    In general:

    Rachel Konieczny reported early in January on the phased retirement plan for faculty in her story “University offers staff new retirement plan,” and Emily Losito reported on further faculty reductions in her February story “Faculty searches suspended.”

    The University’s “Staff Voluntary Separation (Retirement) Program” has not yet been covered by the BV.

    In particular:

    In Ms Konieczny’s story, I note that Erik Seastedt, director of human resources, seems not to have mentioned one of the significant “highlights” of the University’s “phased retirement plan” for senior faculty—i.e., to save money by reducing the number of the faculty in general, and the number of senior (and therefore [relatively] better compensated) faculty in particular.

    I find several aspects of Ms Losito’s story rather confusing.

    I am inclined to attribute this to two main factors: 1. the somewhat “weedy” nature of the University’s faculty hiring/firing policies and procedures; and 2. reluctance on the part of University administrators to speak clearly and accurately about the University’s un-enviable, current, financial condition.

    As Dr. Cox stated, the reason for “suspending”/cancelling a number of already-approved (by department chairs, deans of schools, Interim Provost/VPAA Joe Zimmer, and the University President/Interim President [Margaret Carney and/or Andrew Roth], based on research conducted by the University’s Office of Institutional Research) and already-begun faculty searches was “budgetary concern” (i.e., the University is significantly in the red for its current fiscal year, and for the foreseeable future, as Interim President Roth informed University’s employees—but not students, alumni/ae, or the public—on the Wednesday before students returned to campus in January).

    It is difficult to understand how—as reportedly stated by Dean of Arts & Sciences Hilmey—these “budgetary shortfalls” can have “resulted from enrollment increases.”

    … unless, that is, the “enrollment pressures” of recent years that were mentioned by Zimmer are actually “enrollment vacuums.”

    It is also unclear how “suspension”/cancellation of faculty searches/hires can significantly “protect people [i.e., faculty] employed here already,” since the University’s contract with faculty (i.e., the Faculty Status and Welfare Handbook, which is incorporated into all individual faculty contracts) precludes—except for “serious cause” or in the event of declared financial exigency—dismissal of any existing faculty for next year except those few who are currently in their first year at St. Bonaventure.

    Considering A&S Dean Hilmey’s plan to “spread the load of teaching” that would have fallen upon the un-hired new faculty by “find[ing] people [i.e., current faculty; and perhaps also “adjunct professors” as Zimmer suggested] to fill in where we need them,” this all seems to boil down to saving money by saddling current faculty with increased teaching loads, and by hiring local un-/under-employed individuals to teach in place of faculty.

    (Zimmer’s reported statement that “This is not an easy process. In some cases, we can handle it; in other instances, we’re trying to find ways to handle it. We’re not at a point where we feel we have this suspension under control, but we’re hoping we can get there” suggests why he feels he merits his considerable compensation, but doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence.)

    Not yet reported by the BV—or by anyone else—is the “Staff Voluntary Separation (Retirement) Program” that the University offered about one month ago to full-time (i.e., benefit-receiving), senior (i.e., most expensive) “Staff” (i.e., non-faculty employees). This Program aims to stimulate such employees to spare the University the burden of their continued presence in return of a golden parachute of $10,000, payable in one of three optional modes. Applications for this Program are due by February 20. Unless a sufficient number of such applications are forthcoming by that date, “In-Voluntary Staff Separations” are likely to be implemented by the University (shortly after Commencement, if past performance is any guide).

    Cheers!

    George

    George Lapennas
    Assoc. Professor of Biology, Retired
    lapennasgn@yahoo.com

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