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Loyola Faculty and Students Share Concerns Over Upcoming Buyouts

Courtesy of Loyola University ChicagoLoyola adminstration offered 100-200 faculty members a large sum of money to leave the university at the end of the year.
  • Loyola recently offered tenured faculty members — full-time professors with job security and research requirements — a sum of money if they choose to leave at the end of the school year.

Certain tenured faculty who are 60 years or older and have worked at Loyola continuously for 10 or more years can volunteer to leave at the end of the academic year and receive a bonus worth two times their salaries, according to an email sent to eligible faculty obtained by The Phoenix. 

Between 100 and 200 faculty members were offered this deal, according to Michael Kaufman, the dean of the Loyola University Law School and Loyola’s interim vice-provost — an academic officer for the university. 

About two years ago, a similar program — the Staff Voluntary Transition Program — was offered to other staff members Kaufman said. He said the university received feedback from tenured professors saying they would be interested in a similar offer.

Out of the 77 staff members offered the program, 44 accepted and the university saved $2.4 million, according to Wayne Magdriarz, Loyola’s chief financial officer. Half of the positions lost were refilled or restructured, Magdriarz said. 

Kaufman said the university offered the current program for three reasons: to show appreciation to faculty members, to address students’ changing needs and to save money. 

“You have the opportunity, as a university, to reinvigorate or replenish your faculty in ways that are really meaningful to your mission and in terms of your strategy going forward,” Kaufman said.    

Although Kaufman said the program was designed to show appreciation for faculty, Pamela Caughie — a tenured English professor who received the offer and former appeals advocate for the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) at Loyola — said she thought certain phrases in the email seemed insensitive. She specifically mentioned the phrase about the program being designed to take “proactive steps to help ensure our continued standing as a first-class, student-focused university.”

“Our ranking has gone up as a university and it’s because of the very faculty they’re targeting with this,” Caughie said. “We didn’t build that reputation in three years — it’s been a while. It’s because we’re research-active, we’re working closely with students, we’re keeping up with our fields and we’re innovating our curriculum and our research that we have a good reputation.” 

Reducing costs wasn’t the main motivator behind the program, according to Kaufman, although he said it’s an added benefit. Kaufman said it’s almost impossible to predict how much money will be saved until the university knows how many people choose to take the offer. 

Before offering the program, the administration made sure there was enough money in the budget to pay the promised amount to faculty members who take the deal, Kaufman said. He said they will more closely evaluate where the money comes from within the budget when they know how many people take the offer. 

Sophia Logan, a first-year studying chemistry, said she had mixed feelings about replacing current faculty members with new professors. 

“I see their point of view on the financial part, but personally I would prefer experienced professors,” Logan, 18, said. “If [a professor] has been teaching for a long time and students don’t like them then maybe it’s time to find a new professor, but if they’re good then there’s no point.” 

Kaufman said the administration plans to work with department heads to replace those who leave once they have a better idea of how many people take the offer.

The first deadline for faculty members to express their interest was Sept. 20, but Kaufman said the administration won’t know how many will take the offer until November. 

“The commitment is to make sure that department needs are fulfilled, student objectives are satisfied and that the research impact of this university is maintained,” Kaufman said. “That’s going to be a very open and collaborative process.” 

Kaufman said the administration hasn’t decided who will replace the professors who leave, but it doesn’t plan to hire adjunct or part-time professors. 

Benjamin Johnson, the president of the AAUP chapter at Loyola, said if the administration decides to replace the faculty members with part-time employees, the quality of education at Loyola could drop. 

“If they’re not going to be replaced by full-time faculty members, this is gonna be a huge, huge reduction of Loyola’s basic educational mission,” Johnson said. 

Liv Eidukat, a sophomore sociology major, said she thinks replacing a professor familiar with Loyola with someone new lowers the value of a degree from the university.

“If we get a new professor we wouldn’t be getting the same level of education out of it and we’re still paying the same price for tuition, but a lower value,” Eidukat, 19, said. 

Some departments could feel the impact more than others. For example, if all eligible professors in the Classical Studies program take the deal, only two tenured professors would be left, according to Laura Gawlinksi, an associate professor and the chair of the program. 

Johnson said the buyout program isn’t something faculty members “recoil from,” but he said it can be concerning when a new program is presented if there’s no plan for the aftermath. 

“Like a lot of things from the [Loyola President Jo Ann] Rooney administration … someone comes up with these plans and by the time people are presented with it, the train has left the station,” Johnson said. “They may be problematic, but they’re already in place and it’s too late to change it.” 

When asked to respond to these remarks, Loyola spokesperson Evangeline Politis declined to offer a comment from Rooney without the specific quote. Politis referred back to the email which offered the buyouts to faculty, emphasizing the “Task Team” which made the decision.

“Earlier this year a Task Team composed of representatives from the Provost’s Office, Faculty Council, University Senate, Finance, Human Resources, and various schools and other departments met regularly to review current business operations and processes and propose recommendations to strategically enhance efficiencies and identify opportunities for further academic development,” the email said. 

Gawlinski said the package seems generous and isn’t a bad thing in itself, but the lack of a plan is what concerns her. 

“It’s been sort of like, ‘Let’s wait and see how many people go and then we’ll work out a plan,’” Gawlinski said.

In response to the professors’ concerns, Kaufman affirmed the administration’s commitment to faculty and staff. 

“I understand that concern,” Kaufman said. “But actually, in this context, it’s really not justified. The dean’s office and the provost’s office will work assiduously with faculty and staff on a plan to replenish the faculty who accept this generous offer. … It will not be done haphazardly or without strategic input from all stakeholders.” 

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