After losing 80 tenured professors to a heavily criticized retirement buyout program, Loyola plans to fill many of the positions with short-term hires because of concerns over COVID-19’s effect on fall enrollment and budget, officials said.
In January, 80 tenured Loyola professors accepted buyouts that will pay them two times their annual salary to retire at the end of this academic year. The buyouts were offered to 200 professors to save money and “show appreciation to faculty members,” The Phoenix reported.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, Provost Norberto Grzywacz asked deans of multiple schools to hire short-term positions and hold off on hiring as many tenure track positions as possible to give the school time to develop a hiring strategy, according to Anna Rozenich, a Loyola spokesperson.
Grzywacz also asked the schools to each develop five-year hiring plans that work within a larger plan to increase cooperation between schools, Rozenich wrote in an email to The Phoenix. Each school works within its budget to hire enough to fill short-term needs while keeping in mind the longer-term academic vision, Rozenich said.
“It has never been about replacement just for the sake of replacement,” Rozenich said.
For example, Grzywacz approved eight tenure-track positions, nine three-year positions and 33 one-year positions to fill the 49 positions in the College of Arts and Sciences left open by the buyouts, according to the Rev. Thomas J. Regan, S.J., the dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) and the Graduate School.
Five tenure-track positions and most of the three-year contracts have already been filled, he said. About 20 one-year hires have currently been made and more will be filled as needed in July when enrollment numbers are more certain, Regan said.
Grzywacz also worked with other schools to establish their hiring numbers. Some schools, such as the Stritch School of Medicine, are only filling key positions, such as deans, according to Sam Marzo, the recently appointed dean of the Stritch School of Medicine.
Ian Cornelius, an English professor at Loyola and the vice president of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) chapter at Loyola, said this will create some difficulties because the school is still losing knowledge and expertise at a difficult time. The AAUP had previously criticized the buyouts, saying they would lower the quality of education at Loyola and that the buyouts weren’t well planned.
But between a new provost and the coronavirus, the decision ultimately made sense, he said.
“It’s easy to see why the new provost would want to have a lull to assess hiring especially at a critical juncture,” he said.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic, that lull has become even more important. Many colleges are expecting low enrollment, or may be limited by public health decisions in the fall. With this uncertainty over fall enrollment, Regan said it’s important to not rush into hiring decisions.
“We have a plan for all 80 [positions], but with the coronavirus it’s a matter of how many we have to roll out, so we don’t have to hire all 80 right away because we might not have the numbers to justify those hires,” Regan said.
Beyond uncertainty in enrollment numbers, there’s also a need for emergency hardship funds for students who have been impacted by the crisis, Rozenich said. These economic uncertainties mean a hiring plan is even more important to ensure resources aren’t wasted, she said.
“Our limited resources will lead us to make difficult decisions and establish priorities that will not place additional undue hardship on our students, faculty, and staff,” she said.
There may be low enrollment in the fall if people affected by COVID-19 wait to send their kids to college over financial or safety concerns. Fewer students means there’s less of a “teaching need,” so concerns about staffing are lesser in the short-term, Cornelius said. Grzywacz has been committed to involve faculty in these decisions, which he continues to do despite the pandemic, Cornelius said.
“Shared governance like everything else becomes more difficult in crisis, and so far administration has honored its commitment to shared governance even as it becomes more difficult,” he said.