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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

VSP puts students’ education at risk


A call for transparency on our financial situation

The university administration sent out an email in December to staff and faculty announcing the Voluntary Separation Program (VSP). According to a document sent out by the university, the program offers “2 years of salary, 2 years of employer contribution towards medical benefits and continued tuition benefits for employees and dependents currently enrolled in SJU educational programs up to three years post employment” to faculty members. It also offers “1 year of salary and 1 year of employer contribution towards medical benefits” to staff.

As of right now, the offer for voluntary separation has been approved for 16 of 18 faculty members and 64 of 67 staff members. These 80 people who were approved are still deciding whether or not to take the offer.

VSPs are not uncommon in higher education, and it is seemingly better than surprise layoffs similar to what we experienced in fall 2018. It is disheartening to see the university take drastic measures by shedding out so many members of the university community with financial enticements. Offering benefits that are likely to cost a lot up front indicates that the university’s financial situation is probably dire. Hence, staff reductions will result in cost savings for the institution.

Voluntary separation and other early retirement programs are common strategies in corporate entities. It is imperative for us to remember that the purpose of this non-profit educational institution is to educate and fulfill its larger social mission. We maintain the position that education should be valued first and foremost here.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#cecece” txt_color=”#000000″]“It is overall disheartening to see budgetary pressures force the administration to reduce the number of current staffers and faculty members that serve our student population.”[/mks_pullquote]

However, the reality is that the education system has been forced to turn into more of a corporate business model; the VSP affirms this corporate approach. For example, when VSPs in higher education end up losing experienced tenured professors, the risk is that these positions get filled by lower-paid adjunct instructors who almost always lack the benefits of a full-time position. So, the university saves money, but the students are disadvantaged by having low-paid, overworked adjuncts.

Tenured professors make their departments what they are because of all the time and work they put in over many years. We appreciate all they have done for the university and for their individual departments. It is upsetting to lose these educators in order for the university to reduce costs.

Tenured or not, the professors we have at this university have the ability to make or break our college experience and have a large impact on our academic career. We struggle to understand the message being sent when faculty become expendable commodities.

In terms of staff members, administrators or administrative assistants form the backbone of support services across campus in various departments. If all, or most, of the 64 approved staff members leave, we are left to wonder how the university will replace them or redistribute their workload. The work they do for our institution is immensely important and valuable, and in some in- stances they are not replaceable.

It is overall disheartening to see budgetary pressures force the administration to reduce the number of current staffers and faculty members that serve our student population.

The sheer number of staff and faculty members considering accepting the VSP is worrying to us as students.

The fact that 80 people may possibly leave the university makes us wonder what it will look like moving forward. Will the university replace the position of Title IX coordinator? Who will take on the responsibilities the office administrators will leave behind? How will the absence of 64 possible staff departures affect the work of remaining staff at the university? Equally important, how will this affect students?

At this point, there seem to be many unanswered questions and much uncertainty. The effects of the VSP impact all of us, we just don’t know how yet. Perhaps we can ask for more transparency from the ad- ministration in how they will comprehensively address what appears to be financial trouble ahead.

We encourage the university leadership to use our mission statement as a guideline for how to prioritize the educational needs of students and work diligently to plan for best case and worst case financial scenarios in the future. Ultimately our education is at stake.

—The Editorial Board


This week’s Editorial Board is comprised of the Editor in Chief, Managing Editor, Features Editor, Assistant Features Editor, Copy Editor, Assistant News Editor, Photo Editor, Special Projects Editor, Copy Chief, News Editor, Online Editor and Staff Reporter. This editorial reflects the views of the Board and not the entire Hawk staff.

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