CORRECTION (09/04): The article originally read “26 staff and five faculty members”. This article ran in the 09/03 print issue as well.
Written by Kristin Whitman, Sports Editor
Interim President Cecil Staton spoke on the reduction of 31 university employees at the Faculty Senate meeting held on Thursday, Aug. 27, at 3:30 p.m. in the University Center Magnolia Room.
In total, 26 faculty members and five staff members were told that their contracts would not be renewed for the upcoming fiscal year.
“No one wants this kind of thing to happen. But unfortunately, as we look back over the last several years as cuts have been managed, the low hanging fruit or those things which refused to be done, have been done, including depleting some of our serving ones,” Dr. Staton said.
Increasing enrollment, retention rates, and graduates were the topic of the hour as President Staton went through a slideshow describing declining numbers of students over the past five years at VSU.
Accordingto the slide show presented by President Staton, headcount for freshman class has fallen 10.4 percent from Fall 2010 to Fall 2014, 13.6 percent for undergraduates but increased 6.2 percent for graduate students.
The decline of freshman students and undergraduates accounts for 2,801 total, and the increase in graduates has made up for 131 students in all.
“This institution has another serious issue, because of the cutting over the last several years as well as the cuts we are facing for the next fiscal year. We have precious little in the way of resources for investing strategically in areas where we might have growth,” Dr. Staton said. “If our resources are allocated in such ways that you have limited abilities to make adjustments and to allocate resources and capitol where you can find growth, then you are sort of stuck in the water.
“You are in a very difficult position for the institution; it is for that reason that we choose to make the decision that way made relative to these cuts.”
Dr. Staton goes on to discuss how he plans to be as transparent as possible about this situation but is unable to discuss individual positions in the matter of cutting.
“People can lob shells and make accusations, and I can get phone calls from the media all day long, but I still won’t be able to talk about those things,” Dr. Staton said. “It is not allowed.”
President Staton went over the data and information that he previously shared with the Executive Committee of the Faculty Senate at the meeting as a helpful explanation.
One topic, VSU credit hours, was on the agenda while Dr. Staton spoke. He explained how credit hours were currently for higher education, and there has been a fall in credit hour production 14.5 percent.
After describing the decreasing numbers in each of the classes at VSU, Dr. Staton went on to discuss that the College of Arts and Science saw the biggest hit, because it dropped in credit hour production 28.2 percent.
“We insisted that we are going to do this. We do it, and make the announcements as quickly as possible to give people maximum notice,” Staton said. “I don’t know anywhere else in American business giving people over a year’s notice. We wanted to do the humane thing.”
Some have questioned how this cut in employees will affect the students.
“That will depend upon you and your colleagues,” Staton said. “Based credit hour production—this is no legitimate reason why we do not have enough resources, creativity, and commitment to make sure it does not have an impact on our students. We can find solutions to this issue. And I believe that Valdosta State has the resources to be the most innovative institution in the USG system, but we’ve got a lot of work to do. We have to decide to be a part of the solution, not a part of the problem.”
The Senate sat back as Dr. Staton described many reasons why the retention rate has dropped at VSU, and they were later allotted a time to discuss this issue with the interim president.
Theresa Grove from the College of Arts and Sciences questioned how the reduction in faculty and staff was going to be a service to students and expressed her belief that the students lose in the long run.
“These cuts are based on data and there is additional data that we haven’t even had time to talk about,” Staton said. “You have to look at the big picture. I regret how some of this fell out. But we had to follow certain procedures, policies and laws, and the impact that this will have on the students is up to you.
“We are going to come up with ways to make sure our students are not harmed in this process. We have not decimated this faculty. Based on the data there is no need for the same side faculty that he had three, four or five years ago, and I can’t change that.”