John R. Hoffman, Ph.D., was appointed as Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs effective June 1, 2016. Previously, he was the Founding Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences in 2013-16, Associate Provost for Accreditation, Assessment, and Research from 2012-13, Founding Dean of the Arcadia University College of Business, Health & Sciences from 2009–11, and the Dean of Graduate Studies from 2008-11, Dr. Hoffman received the 2016 Pennsylvania Counseling Association Outstanding Administrator Award.
March 30, 2018 Faculty Updates
Dear Arcadia Community,
I am sending this message out broadly to all members of our Arcadia Community, including faculty, staff, students, alumni, and Board members. My email from Tuesday, March 27 and incoming President Nair’s email from Wednesday, March 28 have generated many questions that need to be addressed. There will be opportunities to meet in person to respond to these concerns in a public forum to be scheduled with the assistance of faculty and faculty leadership.
However, as we enter a weekend in which many of our community members will celebrate a holiday, I would like to try to provide some answers in the hope of helping reduce the painful anxiety affecting so many. Over the last 48 hours, I have received many heartfelt messages from faculty, students, and alumni passionately advocating for their faculty. I wish that I could speak to each of you individually to address your questions and concerns, but for now, I must try to answer the common themes that have been asked.
Why do we have to reduce faculty?
Arcadia is committed to providing our students with small classes and a personalized learning experience. We are fortunate to have dedicated faculty that teach and inspire our students inside and outside of the classroom. I know that our faculty are talented and doing wonderful things as teachers, scholars, and artists. The decisions that need to be made have nothing to do with an individual’s performance, only that we have fewer students in their program than we had in the past. Without an unlimited budget, in order to be able to add faculty in areas where enrollments are growing, we must reduce the number of faculty in other areas. It is natural to see changes in enrollment in different programs over time. In Arcadia’s 1928 Yearbook are references to majors in Home Economics, Commercial Education, and Physical Education, all programs that Arcadia, then Beaver College, decided to eliminate while adding others. However, I can promise you that as Provost, I remain committed to the proud liberal-arts legacy of Beaver College and Arcadia University and will work hard to ensure that our students are exposed to opportunities across a broad range of disciplines.
How many full-time faculty members does Arcadia have?
Arcadia currently has 183 full-time faculty members. Over the past eight years, the number full-time faculty has increased by 49 individuals (37%), from 134 in FY2010 to 183 in FY2017. At the same time, the number of staff members and number of students is virtually the same today as it was in 2010. Research of programs, courses, enrollments, and workload has determined that the number of faculty lines should be rightsized to ensure a sustainable future. An excess number of faculty programs with fewer students meant that some of our larger programs struggled with too few faculty to meet the needs of their growing numbers of students. The plan to reduce the number of faculty will still leave Arcadia with many more faculty than in 2010. Because we have virtually the same number of students, we will still have a better student-to-faculty ratio than we had then in order to provide the faculty-student interactions that our students and alumni indicate is so important to the Arcadia experience.
How does Arcadia’s budget situation compare relative to peer institutions?
Arcadia is by no means unique in facing enrollment challenges. Many schools, especially those that are tuition-driven, are experiencing or have experienced a similar budget situation. Projections show the number of high school graduates in the U.S. continuing to decline through the next decade. While Arcadia's enrollments peaked over the past decade we expect our enrollments to remain relatively stable at approximately the same level as 2010.
In information that I shared with Faculty Senate, the U.S. Department of Education IPEDS data shows that Arcadia spends a greater percentage of its overall budget on Academic Affairs than our peer institutions. We remain committed to ensuring a high-quality educational experience for our students, but we must do so in a more cost-effective manner.
What is the budget deficit the University is trying to close?
All University departments and units have worked to close a projected $3 million budget gap for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY2019), or approximately 2.5 percent of the University’s operating budget of $120 million. Roughly half of the 2.5 percent reduction would have come from the Academic Affairs portion of the budget.
How was the decision made?
In June 2017, I convened a task force of deans, faculty, staff, and members of the Faculty Senate to consider a range of budget options. These other options were implemented, but the University still faced a deficit associated with adding 49 full-time faculty members when our student enrollment numbers have remained relatively constant. The final option of reducing the number of full-time faculty was discussed throughout the year with Faculty Senate and the Faculty Senate Executive Team, but I expect everyone hoped that it wouldn’t be necessary. There was a plan to right-size the faculty at Arcadia based on enrollment of particular programs and courses. The plan was to notify 7 faculty members that their contracts would not be renewed at the end of December 2018 and that another 7 faculty members would not have their contracts renewed after the 2018-19 academic year. However, with President Ajay Nair beginning his tenure on April 2, he asked that the University pause any plan that included budget cuts or personnel decisions until he could review closely Arcadia’s current and projected budgets.
Why was the announcement made before the end of the semester?
The budget conditions requiring this action were created over the last eight years, and failure to address the imbalance in faculty was limiting our ability to invest resources and new faculty lines in growing programs. Since this was brought up at many meetings throughout this academic year, rumors grew and contributed to growing anxiety. I spoke with campus leaders including the Faculty Senate Executive Team and, based on their input, I felt that it was better to put out accurate information rather than wait and continue to let rumors affect our faculty, students, and alumni. I consulted on criteria to be used with President’s Cabinet, Provost’s Cabinet, and the Faculty Senate Executive Team. Ultimately, the reduction decisions were made by me and approved during the tenure of Interim President Hank Brown, which concludes on April 1. While the University does not comment in detail about personnel decisions, any personnel decisions are reviewed thoroughly and undertaken with the best interests of the University.
Is the University seeking to close any budget gaps by solely reducing faculty?
No. All members of the University community already have worked toward closing budget gaps with cuts to department, units, and staff. Many, if not all University departments, have reduced their budgets. Academic Affairs was the last unit charged with making cuts.
Is the right-sizing of faculty due to enrollment challenges?
As a tuition-driven institution, Arcadia relies heavily on enrollment for operating costs. We grew the full-time faculty at a time in which our enrollments remained stable. Unfortunately, decreasing enrollments in certain courses and programs can have a significant impact on the University’s operating budget and limit our ability to support growing programs.
Is Arcadia also considering cutting any courses or academic programs, and if so, which ones?
Arcadia is reviewing the viability of individual courses and academic programs. We have a number of programs that have grown rapidly that require additional resources and faculty to enhance the student experience. When this occurs, we must carefully examine programs that decline. The student learning experience is often impaired when there are too few students in a class or program to interact with. Any decision to eliminate programs only occurs after determining that there are no other ways to increase enrollments, such as controlling when the course is offered, if the curriculum needs to be refocused, or if other topics need to be included.
How will reductions to faculty or to degree programs, if any, impact students in those particular programs?
Any student that is in a program that is suspended will have the opportunity to complete their studies at Arcadia.
What is the University's plan to bring in more revenue instead of cutting faculty?
The University continues to develop exciting new programs to meet the needs of our students. The recently added Musical Theater concentration within the B.F.A. in Acting and the undergraduate public health program are attracting strong enrollments. We are currently in the process of approving several degree completion programs that will allow community college students to seamlessly transition to Arcadia University and complete their undergraduate studies.
I and the others on the University leadership team are committed to maintaining a University that continues to provide the faculty-student and staff-student engagement opportunities that make Arcadia special. As stewards of the University, there will be times that we need to make difficult and unpopular decisions. However, any change must be looked at through the perspective of our Mission and Vision, and our actions must always adhere to our core values – civility, diversity, excellence, integrity, intellectual freedom, and stewardship.
I look forward to discussing your concerns in person over the coming weeks.
John R. Hoffman
Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs