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LHU consolidation subject of March 30 virtual town hall

LOCK HAVEN — Faculty at Lock Haven University plan to host a virtual town hall on March 30 to discuss the controversial integration of Lock Haven, Mansfield and Bloomsburg universities.

With more questions than answers about the proposed merger, LHU members of the Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties (LHU-APSCUF) are inviting people to the meeting via ZOOM.

The “open town hall meeting” is set for 7 to 8:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 30. Information on how to participate is listed at right; registration is required.

By means of the Act 50 legislation passed earlier in 2020, the state system and the chancellor’s office propose to consolidate Lock Haven University with Mansfield and Bloomsburg universities. The chancellor and the management of the three universities have presented this consolidation as an upbeat outcome for students, faculty, staff, and the larger communities affected by the consolidation.

“There are more questions than there are answers about the consolidation and its impact on the quality of the education we have historically provided to the students we serve. LHU’s consolidation also raises questions about its impact on the economic wellbeing of the greater Lock Haven community,” three faculty members, Dr. Matt Girton, Peter Campbell and Dr. Rick Goulet, said in a prepared release.

“The exact details of the consolidated curriculum, shared enrollment strategies, one single administration, one faculty body etc. have not been finalized nor have they been shared with students and faculty, though PASSHE plans to submit its preliminary implementation plan to the Board of Governors for approval in early April,” they added.

Campbell, chair of the Sports Studies department and president of LHU’s faculty union, said “the concern is, that as of now, we still have no plan on the table to review and evaluate. The devil may be in the details.”

Along with the proposed consolidation, Lock Haven University is planning its second round of faculty layoffs this spring.

“In total, LHU will lose 65 professors reducing our faculty by 30%. This reduction will greatly challenge the ability of the remaining faculty to provide quality educational experiences to our students,” noted Campbell.

In addition to the list of majors and programs that were cut in fall 2020, LHU plans to cut even more programs before the projected consolidation takes effect. Campbell noted that “the reductions in staff in other university areas is also a great concern in our ability to deliver a quality educational experience” for Lock Haven University students.

With one month left before PASSHE presents its implementation report to the Board of Governors for their vote, questions loom large in the minds of both faculty and students on exactly how the consolidated universities would work in delivering courses to LHU students, including:

— Will LHU students be taking their classes on campus?

— Will they have to take classes for their majors online?

— Will they have to travel to other campuses?

— Will they have the courses they need for their majors offered on their campus?

— Will their major’s degree be assembled piecemeal?

— Will they live in Lock Haven or elsewhere?

— Will they be able to graduate on time?

“The proposed merger with Bloomsburg and Mansfield will greatly impact the ability for students in the rural community surrounding LHU to achieve a full residential collegiate experience with traditional courses,” stated Campbell.

The retrenchment of faculty, the further elimination of academic programs, and the projected consolidation raise questions about the short and long term impact of these decisions on the economic wellbeing of the greater Lock Haven community, those who oppose the measures say.

“Immediate concerns of economic impact raise questions about a potential reduction in community revenue through visitor spending, student spending, student rentals and student housing, athletics and associated revenue streams,” they added.

After the state system Board of Governors votes on the PASSHE northeastern university consolidation project in April, there will be a 60 day public comment period.

The board will study the public response to the consolidation to make its final implementation plans projected for as early as July 2021. The first cohort of students are expected to enroll in the consolidated universities in fall 2022.

However, Campbell noted, as of now, neither PASSHE nor LHU have presented any concrete plans to review or to evaluate.

The APSCUF virtual Town Hall invites LHU students, faculty and staff and Lock Haven community members, including elected officials, news media, business owners, teachers, coaches, and all other groups of concerned citizens to gather together to discuss the connected futures of the Lock Haven community and Lock Haven University.

Town hall speakers will provide the latest information on the consolidation plan and address community questions and concerns.

Registration is required to attend the Town Hall. You may register for the event until 4 p.m. on Friday, March 26 by emailing sschenck@apscuf.org.

After March 26, register by emailing rgoulet@apscuf.org until 12 noon, March 30. All registered participants will receive a zoom link to join the Town Hall.

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