New Details on UE Academic Plan, Alumni Reaction

Dec 14, 2020

Credit evansville.edu

WNIN has obtained audio of the stunning announcement to faculty last Thursday that contains information about potential further cuts at the school.

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The audio of last Thursday’s video conference between University of Evansville faculty and administration shows a stunned faculty trying to come to grips with the size and scope of the proposed cuts to faculty at the university.

So stunned they asked UE President Christopher Pietruszkiewicz to repeat them several times. In this exchange, UE provost Michael Austin presents the question again to Pietruszkiewicz.

Austin:“There are two requests for you to please repeat the departments with two, and the departments with one faculty position that will be eliminated.”

Pietruszkiewicz: “Those with two- English and Creative Writing combined, thinking of it as one block, along with history, Spanish and math. And then the departments with a reduction of one would be art history, biology, chemistry, physics and political science.”

Austin: “Then another question is, when will the full plan be available, academic and non-academic?”

Pietruszkiewicz: “After we work through the academic plan and get the feedback from all of you, from all the faculty, then the whole plan will be finalized.”

Austin: “Another question, do you mean that all faculty in the three departments being eliminated, would be eliminated?”

Pietruszkiewicz: “The answer is yes.”

Austin: “ What is the total number of faculty positions that will be eliminated by the college?”

Pietruszkiewicz: “The draft has thirty eight positions associated with this. That is all subject to change by the voluntary separation initiative and by the comments by the faculty.”

Austin: “And that’s thirty two positions in arts and sciences and six positions in engineering, correct?”

Pietruszkiewicz: “That sounds correct.”

It’s being called an academic realignment. Pietruszkiewicz says the rest of the plan will be announced once this part is complete. The UE administration is in a hurry to finalize the faculty cuts in order to allow eighteen months-notice before the plan would go into effect in the fall of 2022.

They want faculty input finished by the end of January when an election window will open for any tenured faculty in the affected departments to take a voluntary separation, which might save the job of a lower seniority fellow faculty member.

Austin: “And then quite a few questions about electrical engineering and then computer science and whether or not we’ve really considered the revenue implications and really considered the impact on the students and the community.”

Pietruszkiewicz: “Not just electrical engineering and computer science, but I think all of these are hard choices. I recognize that these proposals are not just University of Evansville-centric. They are related to our entire Evansville community.”

Another popular topic for faculty questions at last Thursday’s video conference was whether the university would continue with its expensive Division One athletic programs.

Austin: “ And then, questions, several questions about whether in addition to faculty, will areas such as the administration and athletics be cut.”

Pietruszkiewicz: “Yes.”

Following another video conference Tuesday morning between faculty and administration at the University of Evansville, some students and alumni are planning a protest of the proposed academic realignment plan at the school, starting at 11am CST. 

KeYanla Cleckley of Evansville didn’t mince words that the proposed plan would eliminate her major, political science.

“Honestly, it’s a slap in the face," Cleckley said. "It doesn’t make sense. It’s as if they just don’t want it there anymore.”

Cleckley won’t be at Tuesday’s rally- she moved to Texas to find work. She says though, as an alum, she wants some answers from the UE administration about the proposed realignment plan.

“We want to know these particular programs are getting cut.  We want to know why certain things are not getting allocated where they need to be," Cleckley said. "Or, why is there money going towards athletics, when there should be money going towards something else.”

The plan for academic realignment at the University of Evansville is prompting one group to call for the UE president’s resignation.

A petition circulating on change.org calls for the resignation or firing of UE President Christopher Pietruszkiewicz. As of Monday evening, the petition had over three thousand signatures.