Protests continue on the St. Cloud State campus as plans to layoff 8 faculty members proceed. The union for the faculty members, Inter Faculty Organization, filed a grievance against the school on Oct. 28th, 2019. The union claims that St. Cloud State administration did not follow the retrenchment or layoff procedure laid out in faculty contracts.
Retrenched Associate Professor and 12-year Catalog Librarian Tina Gross explained the intent of the protests. “We just wanted to make our campus presence known to let them know that people are paying attention and care about what’s happening and are not satisfied with the explanations that we’ve received.”
“Support our students. Support our faculty,” the group chanted, as students beat out a rhythm with drumsticks. “They say cutbacks. We say fight back.”
Gross further explained,
“Everyone knows that the university is in incredibly dire straits budget wise, but I think when people hear about it and they don’t know anything about the context they think, ‘Oh, well, yeah, they’ve got to make cuts.’ But what I think people need to know is, is how haphazardly the cuts were made.”
Regarding the plans for the rest of the deficit the university stated,
“The fact that we have lost 31% of our enrollment and corresponding revenue over the past decade has forced us to make difficult decisions and retrenchment is one of several strategies being deployed to manage our budget crisis. We understand that this is difficult for the 8 individuals who are being retrenched and this was not a decision that the university leadership team came to lightly or without considerable deliberation.”
Retrenched tenured faculty member Paul Neiman mentioned an otherwise unreported detail. Nieman explained that retrenchment also happened in 2010, and he was targeted then as well. The difference between the two instances is the amount of information available to the faculty and the union. In 2010 University administrators offered specific figures and strategies for saving money.
“In 2010, we knew what types of things they were proposing to close the budget deficit. As of now, all they’ve told us is that the eight layoffs are going to save them $840,000, but they haven’t given us any information about any of the other steps that they’ve taken.” Nieman said. “It’s kind of shocking how much of a difference there is between what they’re telling us about the budget and the process this time compared to last time.”
In an emailed response, St. Cloud State stated that “The university has been transparent about our fiscal position; we have and will continue to honor all contractual agreements while we remain sensitive to the individuals, our colleagues, who may be impacted by some of our decisions.”
The possibility of being retrenched is difficult for Nieman.
“It sucks honestly. It’s hard to know that there are students that I’m working with now that I won’t get to see next year and that I won’t get to watch them graduate. I mean, that’s the hardest part of it for sure.” Nieman said “The thing that sucks about it is I don’t want to leave. I don’t want to go take a job somewhere else. I want to stay here. I’m invested in the university. I’ve been involved in a lot of things over the last 13 years.”