Town halls held to discuss SRA and state of university


Jessica Bonacci and Rachel Looker

Marywood community members gathered to discuss the Strategic Resource Allocation (SRA) process and ask questions at a series of town hall meetings led by Sr. Mary Persico, IHM, Ed.D., president of Marywood on Oct. 3, 4, 12 and 14.

Before the town halls, community members had the opportunity to email Sr. Mary their questions and concerns to be discussed at the meeting. Sr. Mary received a total of eight questions from community members.

Sr. Mary addressed the emailed concerns, then opened the floor for additional questions.

Sr. Mary addresses rumors about faculty cuts

Community members sent questions to the president about the rumor that 30 to 60 faculty members will be laid off due to budgetary issues.

Sr. Mary said the rumor is false.

“We’re not going to deplete this university by a third of the faculty,” Sr. Mary said at the first meeting.

According to Sr. Mary, a one- to three-year plan for the university will be laid out after Thanksgiving and those whom it affects will be made aware of future plans ahead of time.

She said that although the consultants working with the university for the financial reports have suggested cutting faculty, she wants to focus on “building.”

“I don’t believe we can cut our way out of the situation we find ourselves in,” said Sr. Mary at the third town hall.

Sr. Mary said the only reason faculty will leave is because of retirement or consideration of a buyout package.

Sr. Mary also addressed the issue of cutting support staff at the town halls.

At the first meeting, Sr. Mary said that “support staff and their directors and supervisors will be a part of the conversation” and will also be made aware of any decisions ahead of time.

Sr. Mary expressed her goal to have a program in place to help with job placement, resume-building and other aspects of career advising if employees are laid off.

Another concern sent to Sr. Mary via email regarded decreases in benefits and frozen wages.

Sr. Mary said there will be no increase in benefits or wages until the university is “healthy financially,” which she said may happen in two to three years if the community works together.

“The sooner we get healthy, the better it will be,” Sr. Mary said.

Sr. Mary addresses outsourcing
Recommendations from the SRA reports included the idea of outsourcing certain positions, such as IT and Campus Safety.

“At this moment, there is no conversation with anyone about outsourcing any departments,” Sr. Mary said at the first town hall.

She explained that she does not favor outsourcing because Marywood workers are more loyal to the university and cutting them out “cuts out culture.”

Sr. Mary said the university must weigh the benefits with the losses before making any decisions.

McGarry addresses budgets
A community member submitted a question asking if Marywood cut enough money over the past summer in order to make ends meet.

Interim Vice President of Business Affairs William McGarry said there is a need to “bring things back in balance.”

He said although no decisions have been made, the goal is to have sufficient budget reductions to help allocate money to programs that do not have proper funding.
“We haven’t made any reductions to this year’s budget relative to SRA,” McGarry said.

In the third town hall meeting, Sr. Mary addressed this question and said the budget for the next fiscal year has dropped by over $3.2 million from last year’s budget.

Sr. Mary said the University will not break even with the budget this year, but she added, “if we don’t do it this year, we’ll do it next year.”

Sr. Mary talks about online programs
Sr. Mary also addressed a question she received via email about online instruction.

Sr. Mary said online instruction is something into which the university “absolutely need[s] to put some resources.”

She stressed a need to keep up with other local universities.

“We are lacking the practical software, so this is a place where we need resources, especially for grad programs,” Sr. Mary said.

According to Sr. Mary, an online program for the Nutrition and Dietetics Department was recently approved to help with certification purposes.

The floor opens to attendees
After Sr. Mary opened the floor to questions from those at the town hall, many spoke on the issue of altering the liberal arts core.

Sr. Mary said she has “different opinions floating around in [her] head” and asked the audience for feedback.

At the final town hall meeting, Sr. Mary said the core curriculum “has to change” in order to stay relevant in the modern day.

She said that nothing will change without consulting the Core Curriculum committee.

A number of town hall attendees spoke in favor of maintaining the core curriculum.

Faculty members explained that the liberal arts core makes Marywood unique in that it encourages a more enriching and interdisciplinary educational experience.

Also at the first town hall, a member of Marywood’s support staff said Marywood has a damaged reputation in the local community.

“We have to work on [our reputation] from the inside out,” Sr. Mary responded.

She continued that she is tired of hearing that Marywood “is the best kept secret.”

Attendees of the town halls brought up other topics including the operational budget and expanding the international program.

Sr. Mary discussed the importance of allocating more money to admissions for recruitment. Out of all the students’ names Admissions bought last year for recruitment purposes, 49 percent of those students enrolled at Marywood, according to Sr. Mary.

According to Christian DiGregorio, senior director of University Admissions “49 percent of the incoming class came from purchased names.”

Sr. Mary added that the Athletics Department has a plan for athlete recruitment and said coaches were responsible for recruiting 140 student-athletes last year.

Community members share thoughts after the town halls

At the first town hall meeting, Sr. Mary said she thought the town hall was helpful and successful.

“Even though [the town halls] were designed to have people talk about SRA, it’s obvious from this meeting that people want to talk about other things,” Sr. Mary said.

After the final town hall, Sr. Mary said there are no more town hall meetings scheduled, but there may be more added next semester.

“We had lots of good conversation…I appreciate people who take the time to attend,” Sr. Mary added.

Sr. Mary Ann Zimmer, associate professor of Religious Studies, said it was “healthy” to address rumors on campus. She also spoke in favor of the liberal arts core.

“One thing people have as a conception is that the core classes are just required classes,” Sr. Mary Ann said. “I think it’s not about spending money. It’s about learning.”

McGarry said he was pleased with the town hall he attended.

“I think Sr. Mary did a wonderful job,” McGarry said. “I think it was a very professional meeting.”

Anne Zukowski and Brooke Williams contributed to this report.

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Twitter: @JBonacciTWW @RLookerTWW