Faculty concerned about lack of urgency to fill open positions

Samira Felix
News Editor 

Faculty in the kinesiology program, the natural science division and the College of Business and Public Management, among programs across the University, have raised concerns about the dramatic loss of full-time faculty, the University’s failure to retain many of its full-time faculty, and the slow pace and procedure for replacing faculty who have left. 

The University has lost 114 full-time faculty members since 2018, or roughly 19 faculty members a year.  

“These are talented faculty,” said Christine Broussard, professor of biology and chairwoman of the natural science division. “Some have already left, some are considering leaving, and these are people who have really invested in the University, in our students.”

The natural sciences division lost about 40% of its full-time faculty and staff during the pandemic due at least in part to salary and retirement not keeping up with the cost of living in Southern California, and increased workloads, Broussard said.

Paul Alvarez, professor of kinesiology and faculty senate president, said that five years ago the kinesiology department had 10 full-time tenure track faculty to serve about 320 majors. Today the department has three full-time tenure-track faculty members to serve 310 undergraduates and two full-time tenure-track faculty members for 24 master’s students. 

Alvarez said full-time tenure track faculty are being replaced with full-time non-tenure track faculty who do great work, but do not have job security. 

He said the rest of the courses in the kinesiology department previously taught by full-time tenure-track faculty members are taught by three full-time non-tenure track faculty and adjunct faculty. 

Rick Hasse, instructor of accounting and finance, and chairman of the faculty budget and compensation committee, said there are a couple of trends driving the exodus. 

“It’s people who have left the University because they don’t want to work (here) anymore because the pay stinks, or people (who) retired or (were) forced to retire and given a retirement buyout,” Hasse said. 

“That’s fine, that’s the way life is. But these positions have remained unfilled. And they’re being filled temporarily by adjuncts, who are also severely being underpaid. So it’s a revolving cycle.”

Broussard said the natural sciences is continuing to serve the University with fewer faculty since the pandemic, but the sciences are not a place where just anyone can be picked to teach classes. She added that given the nature of many of the sciences, which include hands-on labs, it is difficult to deliver the same quality of education amid the full-time staffing shortage. 

“We’ve been trying to fill those positions, and unfortunately a couple of instances arose where we were told, ‘Oh, no, that position is eliminated’,” Broussard said. 

Alvarez said it seems as if administration does not have an effective  strategy when it comes to using the funds available when professors retire to replace them.

“Rather than having a strategy to say ‘OK, well, where do we need to shore up programs like the natural sciences or kinesiology or behavioral sciences, specifically psychology?’,” Alvarez said. “We just simply said, ‘OK, revenues are looking too low, professor so-and-so, retired. Sweet! We’re going to put this back into the general fund to fund everybody, and not necessarily dedicate that towards a faculty line.’ I won’t say that happens every time, but it kind of seems to be the consistent pattern.”

Assistant Vice Provost Joseph Cabrera, said in an emailed statement that decisions to eliminate or reallocate positions are most often based on program prioritization metrics, along with strategic goals, values of the University or budget shortfalls.

“It might be helpful to know that prior to the 2022-23 academic year, because of overall budget shortfalls at the University, the provost’s office was asked to cut $1.4 million from its budget,” Cabrera said. “In order to make cuts this deep, some vacated faculty lines may not have been replaced.”

Hasse said the communication between administration and faculty needs to be improved so that all parties can plan and strategize around the University’s limited budget. 

Broussard agrees.

“It’s not an administration versus faculty issue,” Broussard said. “It’s ‘how are we going to be strategic given the financial constraints of these times?’ I would like for faculty and administrators to work together to identify the proper metrics that will continue to support existing programs that bring a lot of value to the University and to our students.”

Samira Felix can be reached at samira.felix@laverne.edu

Samira Felix, a junior journalism major with a concentration in print-online journalism, is news editor for the Campus Times. She previously served as a staff writer.

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