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Millersville University to consider cutting faculty amid pandemic, joining 9 other PASSHE schools

Intelligencer Journal - 8/1/2020

Facing a potentially steep financial fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, Millersville University has notified faculty of potential layoffs through a process known as retrenchment, joining nine of its sister institutions that have already done so.

Millersville University President Daniel Wubah announced the move early Friday evening in an email to the campus community. In it, he cited a projected revenue shortage that has been felt by each of the 14 universities within the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education since the pandemic began earlier this year.

"With a projected enrollment decline due to the COVID-19 pandemic, necessary health and safety precautions that reduced on-campus residence hall capacity and the subsequent projected shortage in revenue from tuition," Wubah wrote, "we are anticipating financial challenges."

The university on Monday announced it's shifting at least 80% of courses online and reducing on-campus housing capacity by 32%, from 2,200 students to 1,490 to mitigate the risk of an outbreak on campus.

Similar announcements have been made at Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Lock Haven and West Chester universities in recent days.

Between refunds for students in the spring and lost revenue for summer camps, Millersville found itself in a $6.9 million hole this summer. Add the loss of tuition, housing and dining revenue through the fall, and that could reach $11.5 million this academic year, Millersville spokeswoman Janet Kacskos said.

Any gap, Kacskos said, would come from reducing operation expenses.

The largest operating expense: personnel.

That's where a contractual process known as retrenchment comes in. If a university is considering dismissing faculty because of financial difficulties, the university president must send a letter to the faculty union chapter president letting him or her know.

Kelly Banna, president-elect of Millersville's faculty union chapter, said she had no comment.

Across the system, projected losses through the summer exceeded $50 million. To reduce expenses, the system's board of governors in July took action to promote more integration among the universities.

Millersville now joins nine universities within the state system that have sent letters regarding the possibility of retrenchment. The other universities, as reported by LNP | Lancaster Online in June, are: Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven and Mansfield universities.

It's unclear if Millersville will go through with retrenchment, or how many faculty members could be impacted.

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Crédito: ALEX GELI | Staff Writer