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LHU trustees hear update on integration

LOCK HAVEN — Retrenchment and integration were again topics brought up during the Lock Haven University Board of Trustees meeting Friday afternoon.

LHU President Dr. Robert Pignatello was the first to bring up integration during his report to the board.

Pignatello said the proposed process of integration of LHU with Mansfield and Bloomsburg universities is continuing to move forward with groups from various aspects of campus life among the state’s universities working together to figure out the best way to implement the change.

“We want everyone to be involved in this process and we encourage you to answer the call,” Pignatello said. He noted that the university has held about four virtual town hall meetings to help answer questions about the process and plan to continue being as transparent.

Pignatello also noted that the university has created a website — http://www.lockhaven.edu/integration/ — which details the current information available for review about the process.

Pignatello told the trustees that the proposed integration would not be the end to Lock Haven University.

“The book is not closed, the story is not over… we’re just starting a new chapter,” he said.

Dr. Ron Darbeau, vice president and provost, gave an update on the retrenchment process the university has undergone.

Included in the integration process would be the loss of 47 faculty members and 53 staff over the next two years. That process has begun already according to Darbeau.

“This fall, LHU intended to reduce its faculty complement by 19.5 FTE (full time employees) — including seven tenured/tenured-tracked faculty,” Darbeau said in his report.

Darbeau said they were able to hold onto five of the seven, however two letters of retrenchment were sent out terminating the positions on June 4, 2021.

“In the end, we will have reduced our faculty FTEs by a total of 15.5 — 9 attritions, 4.5 temporary lines and two retrenchments — slightly less than one-third of the 47 by which we will reduce prior to the fall 2022,” he said.

In terms of academics, Darbeau said the university backed away from reducing its undergraduate programs array by 10 degrees and backfilling with three new ones.

“Several academic programs are submitting requests to be placed in moratorium and the provost’s office will be initiating the curricular process for others,” Darbeau said.

Continued moratorium discussions will proceed regarding Foreign Languages (Spanish), Geology, International Studies, Music (BA and BFA), Physics and Political Science.

Darbeau pointed out in his report that part of decision in retrenchment decisions was to “ensure students are not disrupted and have the proper resources and teaching capacity in the teach out of these programs.”

He noted that the university will also hold onto the choir and band for the time being.

“I believe that as integration conversations mature, we have the capacity to influence the preservation of many of these programs as stand-alones in the combined array of the fully integrated single institution,” Darbeau said.

The University’s APSCUF president Peter Campbell noted that the number of retrenchment letters were reduced across the system but said the two at LHU were still too much.

“The two faculty members, Dr. Eddie Severn from Music and Dr. Damarys Lopez from Spanish, who gave me permission to share their names, are valuable members of our community and the LHU family,” Campbell said.

Campbell shared the thoughts and feelings of other faculty at the university.

“All of us are at LHU to begin with because we believe in a particular concept of education, quaint though it might be–we believe in education, not assembly line, hit-or-miss, technologically aided blather,” Dr. David Russell said.

“Our programs, our employees, and yes our students are being sacrificed for a merger plan that is inchoate at best. At worst it is designed (intentionally or not) to produce a net reduction in certain types of academic opportunities in the northern tier of Pennsylvania,” Dr. Stanley Berard said.

Campbell noted many other faculty’s discontent with the proposed integration process as well as athletic coaches. He said many of the coaches are concerned about the lack of consideration of athletics at the beginning of the process.

“The ultimate concern is that these actions being undertaken by the Chancellor will put LHU into a downward spiral that will not be correctable and negatively impact our students, staff, faculty, management and the local economy,” Campbell said.

Campbell said APSCUF will continue to fight against the merger and requested the trustees continue to research the topic and reach out to Gov. Tom Wolf and the PASSHE administrations with any concerns about the process.

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