Arcadia University was preparing to let go 14 professors, or nearly 8 percent of its full-time faculty, over the next 15 months — until Ajay Nair, who takes over as president Monday, put the brakes on the plan.
The university's plan under interim president Hank Brown had called for the contracts of seven professors not to be renewed in December and the contracts of another seven not to be renewed at the end of the 2018-19 academic year. The move was expected to help offset a projected $3 million budget gap for fiscal year 2019, or approximately 2.5 percent of the university's $120 million operating budget.
Programs and courses with lower enrollment were being examined, said Dan DiPrinzio, university spokesman.
Nair, a Philadelphia native who comes to Arcadia from Emory University in Georgia, where he was a senior vice president and dean of campus life, said he wants time to review the university's finances before any decisions are made, DiPrinzio said.
"So everyone can come together to address the situation," he said.
But faculty and students at the Glenside university remain concerned.
Some students are preparing to protest next week, and an open letter from a group of faculty to students expressed concern that the postponement of the faculty reduction will be temporary.
"The faculty do not deny that budgetary considerations, in a time of massive student loan debt and increased competition in higher education, must be addressed by every campus," the letter said. "Through its actions, the university has signaled to us all that our problems should be met by removing teachers from our midst. We disagree."
Ana Maria Garcia, faculty senate president, said faculty are deeply concerned for colleagues who may lose their jobs and the impact their loss may have on the institution, but also understand the university's financial constraints and need to thrive.
"The university and our students are our top priority, and making sure this institution stays vibrant and viable in the future," said Garcia, an associate professor of sociology, anthropology, and criminal justice.
Garcia said faculty are behind Nair and were pleased that he wanted to look at the situation before deciding on any reduction in faculty.
"We're really looking to him to bring us some new ideas," she said.
In recent years, Arcadia has been roiled by leadership turnover and tight finances. The university's former president, Nicolette Christensen, left last spring after less than four years on the job. She had stepped in to lead the university as chief operating officer in March 2013 after the board fired its previous president, Carl "Tobey" Oxholm III.
The university also had significant turnover in other leadership positions and on its board of trustees. In August 2016, the Inquirer reported that 10 members of the board had resigned in recent months and that five left as their terms expired. That means nearly half the board that oversaw the university a year earlier was no longer there. The departures occurred as the university was trying to close a budget deficit.
And in fall 2016, Chris van de Velde stepped down as chairman.
DiPrinzio emphasized that the university's current budget is balanced and that the university was attempting to be proactive and head off any potential shortfall for 2019. Other cuts besides faculty reductions also were being made, the university said. The faculty cuts would have covered about half of the projected shortfall.