Grievances Aired, Next Steps Discussed During UE Hearing

Feb 20, 2021

Credit evansville.edu

Last week, for the first time since it was announced in December, all sides of the proposed academic realignment at the University of Evansville came together on a Zoom call.

In her words, UE Faculty Senate Shair Alanna Keenan has had a “front row seat” for the storm swirling around the proposed academic realignment. It’s a front row seat that was drenched in frustration and humiliation on December 10, the date of the public announcement of the draft academic realignment plan.

“I, along with thirty seven of my colleagues, was informed that our positions would be eliminated under this plan. We were given no forewarning and no opportunity to address whatever shortcomings the administration perceived in the targeted departments. Instead, we sat behind a black screen and watched our fates being announced in front of the entire university.”

Keenan pulls no punches in describing the effects of that process.

“We will be suffering from the aftermath of this public rollout for years.”

While he has not apologized for the way the academic realignment process was launched, University of Evansville President Christopher Pietruszkiewicz has spent a lot of time since that announcement emphasizing that it is a draft academic realignment plan.

“So what has been happening in the interim, while the conversation has been happening publicly and on social media, is that there are conversations that by the nature of them, have to be private conversations.”

Initially, the realignment plan called for the elimination of three departments and seventeen academic majors. The university has since announced that a coalition of community funders has saved the music department where Keenan teaches, and the administration gave in to demands that faculty have input on any program cuts.

Still, for many of the speakers, both inside and outside the university, it was the first time they could vent their frustrations over the proposal, and they did. (Full Audio)

UE student leaders spoke of uncertainty over whether their majors would be available, and whether associated courses would be taught by tenured faculty or part-time adjunct instructors.

Joshua Presnall with the Fighting Aces group that organized some protests over the proposal was also direct in his appraisal of the administration’s handling of the process.

“The question we’ve been wondering since December and even more now, with the salvation of the music department, is why wasn’t students, alumni, faculty, community been brought into this conversation before we had the entire division of the university and the PR nightmare that we’ve been seeing?”

President Pietruszkiewicz asked for patience to let the process play out.

“The realignment plan is one step in the process for the university to be able to grow and thrive in the future. So what has been happening privately is that conversations have been happening, primarily with our provost, and we’ve received almost twenty proposals for changes. Why haven’t you heard about those? Because they have to necessarily by their nature be private conversations at this point. Many of them are contingent upon the voluntary separation incentive program. That period ends on February 26th. After that time, we’ll have a much better sense about what the rest of the draft academic plan looks as a final plan. What am I expecting? I’m expecting that the draft plan will be changed.”

President Pietruszkiewicz has said that there will be a realignment plan for the administration and athletics announced following the February 26th deadline for the voluntary faculty separation decisions.