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Lock Haven University merger

MATT GIRTON

Lock Haven

Over the last month, it has been inspiring to see the passionate defense of Lock Haven University by my eloquent colleagues, our remarkable alumni, our talented students and our supportive friends. They have all made bedrock cases as to why the termination of a quarter of our faculty and 50 of our staff will do considerable damage to our enrollment and ability to deliver a solid education to those who choose to come to The Haven.

However, I’d like to focus my thoughts on the planned “integration” of Lock Haven, Mansfield, and Bloomsburg Universities.

According to Chancellor Daniel Greenstein, six schools across the system must integrate (merge) into two schools or they will cease to exist due to financial and enrollment declines.

He has stated that anyone who suggests that this shouldn’t or can’t be done is “focusing on the rearview mirror.” Other administrators would tell you that this is best for our students and they will have more opportunities. They would state that faculty or staff that argue against this plan are stuck in a typical academic mindset that is resistant to change. The Board of Governors has voted unanimously to pursue a “study” on these mergers; therefore, according to Harrisburg and certain local managers, our best course of action is to participate in this exercise so we can shape its outcome. Unfortunately, this last statement has been contradicted multiple times by the Chancellor himself.

According to a PowerPoint presentation given during a meeting attended by representatives for faculty and staff, integrated universities will have one faculty, one curriculum, and one accreditation. This has multiple consequences.

First, programs that are housed at multiple schools will be considered redundant. So, students who might want to attend LHU as a student in Communication would likely have many of their classes taught online. While many adult learners are satisfied with a remote learning experience, our traditional age students do not come to this campus to sit in their residence hall room staring at a screen. Should we augment opportunities for both the adult and traditional learner through distance education? Absolutely.

However, it is misguided to think we will attract residential learners with remote instruction or replace them with post-traditional students in a location that only has a population of 38,000 in the entire county.

With one accreditation, it is also very likely we will lose our athletic programs.

In the merger of schools in Georgia, Armstrong University lost all of its athletics to Georgia Southern — the larger school. So, no more Mat-Town USA with stories like Ronnie Perry’s magical run to the 2018 finals.

No more national championships or NCAA tournaments for LHU Softball with dominating pitchers like Becca Slattery and Kristen Erb buckling the knees of opposing batters.

No more body painted Crimson Crazies at the Stern Complex screaming our Cross-country team on to victory.

While they were growing up, I brought my kids to basketball and volleyball games in the Thomas Fieldhouse. I can’t fathom how losing not just those exciting experiences, but also 20% of our student population who are athletes will strengthen this town or this school.

There are many other reasons to push back against this fatally designed plan.

First, I asked the Chancellor twice how he would market our school after merging with Bloomsburg and Mansfield.

Both times, he had no response.

Second, as an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education states, mergers don’t save much money. The merger of Georgia State with Georgia Perimeter saved a miniscule .005% of their total operating budget.

Finally, LHU does not need to be subsumed by Bloomsburg to survive. We are trending upward in enrollment and retention.

We have the highest percentage of reserves in the System. We have a five year plan that will make us sustainable. Integration is being implemented to rescue Mansfield, which should be saved, but not at the expense of an institution that has been an invaluable asset to its faculty, staff, alumni, community, and, most importantly, students for 150 years.

Please write Chancellor Daniel Greenstein, Board of Governors Chair Cynthia Shapira, Secretary of Education Noe Ortega, and Gov. Tom Wolf (if your time is limited, please focus on the last two). You can get their contact information and letter writing guidelines by writing me at matthewgirton11@gmail.com.

First, ask them to allow President Dr. Robert Pignatello to do his job and work with faculty and staff to implement his plan to avoid retrenchment.

Second, using the information above, let them know that LHU does not need to merge with Bloomsburg and Mansfield.

Your doing so can help keep our school — and the name Lock Haven University — around for our 152nd anniversary.

(Dr. Matthew K. Girton is professor-chair of the Communications Department at Lock Haven University.)

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