SARAH CORNELL-MAIER; News Editor; cornelsm@plu.edu

PHOTO BY MCKENNA MORIN

The Faculty Joint Committee (FJC) released its final recommendations to the Pacific Lutheran University President on Oct. 30, outlining their ideas on reducing and reallocating faculty positions in order to improve PLU’s fiscal health in the upcoming years.

In the last year, PLU has been publicly maneuvering its way out of a 3 million dollar deficit, and these FJC recommendations are one of the larger steps the administration is taking to get the school out of the red.

In its recommendations, the FJC outlines a proposed cut of 27.6 full-time employees. These cuts should save the university around $2.4 million by the end of the 2019-2020 academic year.

The FJC recommendations span across the departments available at PLU, with proposed cuts from the School of Education and Kinesiology to the Division of Social Sciences.

Although the idea of cutting so many faculty members may seem daunting, it’s actually more common and practical than it appears. According to the Chair of Faculty and Professor of Psychology, Michelle Ceynar, some of the changes will appear in the form of retirements or contingent faculty moving on to other schools. However, Ceynar wants to ensure students understand the scope of these recommendations.

“It’s important to know that the recommendations from the Faculty Joint Committee are not the final say. The board is making the final decisions and this is just what the FJC is recommending to them,” said Ceynar.

These recommendations, which are available for download on the FJC website (see bar at the bottom of this page), provide an overview of the position cuts needed to ensure the school can get its budget back on track. The recommendations go to Acting President Allan Belton, who then takes those recommendations as well as those from the Provost, mediates them and presents them to the Board of Regents for approval.

In an email to the faculty, Acting Provost Joanna Gregson sent a copy of her recommendations as well as her reasoning for the suggested changes.  “I consulted extensively with Associate Provost for Undergraduate Studies Jan Lewis and Associate Provost for Graduate Studies Geoff Foy to ensure that the integrity of our curriculum remains at the heart of our work,” said Gregson.  “At the forefront of my thinking was preserving student access to a strong liberal arts foundation, particularly as articulated in PLU 2020.”

Throughout October, a series of forums put on by a coalition of Associated Students of PLU and the Provost aimed to inform students about the process of the FJC, as well as the ways in which student voices could be heard. ASPLU President Hilary Vo was a main proponent for the forums, arguing that integrating a student perspective would be good for the entire PLU community.

These forums, according to Vo, brought students into the conversation about the process of the FJC’s operation. For future questions about student involvement in the FJC process, Vo suggests reaching out to representatives.

“As a student leader, I hope that students who have additional concerns about the process or about what student leadership and the university is doing to support faculty, staff and students during this transition process reach out to ASPLU for transparency,” said Vo.

While the FJC process is still underway, student interaction with professors should not be any different from what it was before the FJC was announced.

“You’re here to take classes and interact with faculty,” said Ceynar. “Don’t treat faculty like they aren’t going to be here next year.  Learn from them as much as you can in your time here, because then you’re going to be graduating and moving on.”

While it may seem reasonable for students to worry about the state of their major, Ceynar reassured students about the existence and future of their declared majors.

“If a student is committed to a major, PLU wants to make sure that they can graduate with that major. A student that has already declared a particular major will be able to fit in the classes that they need to graduate with that major they’ve declared. There will be a plan in place to make sure these students can finish their degrees,” she said. ◼︎

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