Castleton University to stem $1.5M shortfall with layoffs

[F]aculty at Castleton University came back from the Presidents Week break to news that some positions at the college will be cut by the end of the year.

The yet-to-be-determined positions are being eliminated to stem a $1.5 million loss in revenue.

Harry McEnerny, professor and chair of the Theater Arts Department, said he is concerned that the cuts will disproportionately impact the arts and humanities as they have at other institutions of higher education in the state and across the nation.

“We’re a liberal arts college,” McEnerny said. “I just hope moving forward we keep the liberal arts part of that.”

When the University of Vermont cut courses last fall, the fine arts courses were hit hardest, leading to the resignation of the chair of the department of music.

Flo Keyes, chair of the Faculty Federation, the faculty union at Castleton, said that no one wants to see courses eliminated, but it only happens when “it is simply necessary to restructure financially.”

Jeff Weld, the spokesperson for Castleton University, said the school must address a projected 2019 shortfall.

“With national downward trends in enrollment, we need to figure out a way to be more efficient,” Weld said.

According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center college enrollment nationwide has been dropping since 2011.

Weld said the trend is expected to continue through 2029. There could be an overall enrollment decline of 19 percent.

Faculty cuts will be made based on which courses students need to graduate in order to minimize the impact on students, Weld said.

Three faculty groups will assess student enrollment trends and make a recommendation to the administration by April 1.

It is still uncertain how the cuts will hit non-tenured faculty, Weld said. Details of the demographics of the layoffs will not be known until faculty groups make recommendations in April.

While there will be some layoffs, many of the positions will be eliminated through attrition — retiring members of the faculty who will not be replaced or non-tenured faculty members who will not be reappointed.

Castleton University President Karen Scolforo said the reductions will position the college for future economic growth.

“We will not pass along the burden of external forces to our students. It is a difficult process to undertake, but this restructuring is necessary,” Scolforo said in a Feb. 22 news release.

“I am committed to transparency and collaboration,” Scolforo said. “I’ve met with all employee groups, informed them of our current circumstances and requested their partnership and support. I expect that we will spend the duration of this semester considering multiple options before making any final decisions.”

Any staff and administrators will receive layoff notices by April 15, which is also the date by which faculty task forces will make their recommendations to the university president, Weld said. Decisions on academic positions will be made by May 15. Any tenured faculty affected must be notified no later than Dec. 1, but that is not expected to be necessary, Weld said.

Correction: The university will not be cutting 10 percent of jobs; it will be cutting operations by almost 10 percent. Also, the dates on which notifications of layoffs for staff, administrators and faculty have been clarified. 

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Kelsey Neubauer

About Kelsey

Kelsey is VTDigger's Statehouse reporting intern; she covers general assignments in the Statehouse and around Montpelier. She will graduate from the University of Vermont in May 2018 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and anthropology. She was editor-in-chief of UVM's award-winning student newspaper, The Vermont Cynic. Kelsey previously interned in VTDigger's Burlington bureau and Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, where she had the privilege of working with the Emmy-award winning team that produce "Live From Lincoln Center." She is from New York.

Email: [email protected]

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