FAIRBORN — Wright State University President Sue Edwards is expected to recommend layoffs of more than 100 faculty members, according to a letter she wrote to the Board of Trustees.
The letter, dated Feb. 15, recommends that the board eliminate 113 faculty positions and approve the formal retrenchment of the same. The university cited declining enrollment and financial hardships exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic as reasons for the layoffs.
The university had previously announced its plans to begin layoffs in November, following the regulations of the collective bargaining agreement between the university and the AAUP-WSU. Per this agreement, the university came up with a plan that identified the positions recommended for elimination and the total number of jobs cut.
President Edwards was “provided separate detailed recommendations” in accordance with this process, a university spokesman said. One set of recommendations was submitted by Interim Provost Douglas Leaman, and the other provided by the Joint Committee on Retrenchment.
“She has reviewed those reports and has submitted her final recommendation to the Wright State Board of Trustees,” the spokesman said.
The university’s enrollment has declined steadily over the past five years. Wright State’s Fall 2020 enrollment was just shy of 11,758 compared to 10,637 in the Spring of 2021. By comparison, Wright State’s Spring 2020 enrollment was 12,298 students. Leaman’s analysis found that this decline in enrollment is expected to persist into at least 2023, landing at approximately 9,000, not including medical students.
According to the provost’s 50-page report, nearly half of the layoffs are from the College of Liberal Arts, with 49 faculty members recommended for retrenchment. The provost additionally recommends 12 positions eliminated from the College of Education and Human Services, 12 from the College of Engineering and Computer Sciences, 26 from the College of Science and Mathematics, and 14 from the Raj Soin College of Business. No positions are expected to be cut from the College of Nursing and Health.
“I am certain there are some who disagree with the Provost’s report, and I am keenly aware of the limitations of modeling and forecasting,” Edwards wrote. “Yet, it is difficult to imagine that our enrollment will suddenly break a 5 year pattern of decline given the current circumstances.”
The university previously said that it would provide up to 18 months of notice and workforce displacement support, which it has done previously for other affected staff.
In addition to recommending job cuts, Edwards requested that the board support an incentive program for faculty to voluntarily separate from the university, and that they authorize $1 million for enrollment and retention efforts.
“I am hopeful that the University’s recruitment and retention initiatives will be wildly successful,” Leaman wrote in his analysis. “If that is the case, or other currently unforeseeable events transpire that significantly alter the trajectory of our enrollment or alter the current faculty numbers, the University may find that it is necessary to remove faculty from the retrenchment list who are still in their notice periods, or ‘call back’ faculty members whose positions have been eliminated.”
“With the board’s approval of this recommendation, I will immediately engage the new interim provost to work with our deans to finalize a list of 113 specific faculty positions identified to be eliminated/retrenched,” Edwards continued.
Edwards will present her full recommendation to the board Friday, Feb. 19.
Reach London Bishop at 937-502-4532 or follow @LBishopFDH on Twitter.