VSU announced a plan to drastically alter its advising operation, a move which will shift advising responsibilities from professional advisers to faculty advisers after freshman year.
VSU administration announced the reorganization that will eventually reduce the number of employee positions significantly on March 1.
President Richard Carvajal opened the Budget Advisory Council meeting on March 7 by explaining the purpose of the reorganization of advising and other areas of the university.
The university must prepare for budget cuts, and while the set number will not be available until it is approved by the state, there is a number the university is aiming for, he said.
“The system has asked us to prepare for a certain number,” Dr. Carvajal said. “So what is that number?… July 1 of 2023, as we start the new fiscal year, in that period we will need to cut, based upon current projections, a total of $9 million.”
While the current focus is mainly on reorganizing the advising team, that is not the only action that will be done to combat this decrease in budget.
“There are vacant lines across the institution, both on the staff side and on the faculty side, that we are not rehiring,” Dr. Carvajal said.
Vacant lines are open employment positions.
On March 1, Dr. Carvajal, Dr. Robert Smith, provost and vice president of Academic Affairs, and Melinda Harbaugh, chief officer to the president, met with the officers of the Council on Staff Affairs and the Faculty Senate to inform governance heads on what was happening while Dr. Vince Miller and Human Resources met with the impacted faculty and staff.
Dr. Carvajal attributed the changes to students’ wish for more mentorship with faculty and the faculty’s wish to strengthen the relationship between faculty and students. These desires were noted through student forums and faculty surveys in the fall semester, he said.
“What we heard from students was that they really value that relationship with an adviser, but particularly, they value it in the early stages of their college career,” Dr. Carvajal said.
Students will continue to be professionally advised in the beginning of their college career.
“Understanding that so many of them that were craving a relationship with a faculty member, particularly as they move into their degree program, starting somewhere in the 30- to 60-hour range— it really will vary by program—we will transition students to a dedicated support from a faculty member in their discipline,” Dr. Carvajal said.
Thirty-one full-time employees and two part-time employees were told that they could apply for 24 positions that would only be available to them. Those positions and some others will be filled by April 1.
Affected employees will have the opportunity to work in new positions with the Online College, Title IX and a new office for Student Success and Retention.
Advisers were instructed not the discuss the changes publicly due to interviews taking place soon.
“Meanwhile, a new director of advising will work together with our deans,” Dr. Carvajal said. “They will work together to finalize a university-wide advising model. … And while there will be one model, there will be opportunities for variance department by department.”
Each department will find the best solution to helping students navigate their program.
“I’ll state the obvious—it’s tough,” Dr. Carvajal said.
While advising is where the most drastic changes are being made, other areas of the university are being affected as well.
The Academic Support Center, Orientation and First-Year Programs are also being reorganized.
“My understanding is that the pandemic caused a significant decrease in enrollment, and that coupled with things we have no control over—like a drop in high school enrollment, the changing attitudes about the value of a college education/increasing college loan debt/expense, debt leftover from other presidents—have created a dire budget climate for VSU,” said Dr. Chere Peguesse, current director of the ASC who will be transitioning out of the position.
She said that though changes in organization are not new for the ASC, this one was fast.
“Those of us in Advising, the ASC, First-Year programs and Orientation were told last Wednesday March 1 that our contracts would end by June 30, and that we had the choice of re-applying to fewer positions within this new configuration or finding another job,” Dr. Peguesse said. “The plan is to hire folks into these positions by April 1, giving everyone a scant three weeks to polish their resumes and cover letters.”
Students will still be able to find academic help at the ASC, but the leadership is changing.
“I was not included in discussions about what would be happening to my program,” Dr. Peguesse said. “It was shock. I vacillate between anger, grief and gratitude. I am grateful to have a faculty job to return to, so that’s what I am doing. I hope it’s a safe bet.”
While these major changes will assist VSU’s required decrease in budget, by the end of the spring semester, more will change, Dr. Carvajal said in the March 7 meeting.
Written by Angel Davis, Copy & News Editor. Photo by Bailey Storey, Photo & Social Media Editor.