Emporia State’s student government called a forum Friday to give students an opportunity to ask questions and give feedback on ESU’s plan to realign resources to certain programs and dismiss employees, including tenured professors.
To aid those financially struggling due to declining enrollments and the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) is allowing public universities to submit justification to dismiss faculty members, including tenured professors. ESU President Ken Hush announced plans to submit a justification in a campus-wide email Sept. 7.
Associated Student Government (ASG) President Bella Price, who is also a senior history and communications major, said she called the meeting because she received a draft of the justification and a deadline from administration to submit feedback by 10 a.m. Monday, Sept. 12. A similar deadline was given to the Faculty Senate.
“This is an important meeting because it will impact what this framework will look like,” Price said.
Alyssa Gharmalkar, a junior history major and one of the six student attendees, said she did not feel students were given adequate notice about the forum and expressed concern that students do not understand the gravity of the situation.
The meeting was announced less than 24 hours before on Hornet Announcements and was sparsely attended, with six student participants.
“I read it (Hush’s email) and was immediately like, ‘Oh my god, this is something that should be talked about,’” Gharmalkar said. “But when I talked to my friends about it, they were like ‘Oh yeah, I just skimmed that. I didn’t really understand what was going on.’ If people were more knowledgeable about what was going on, there would’ve been a lot more people at that meeting.”
Lynn Hobson, dean of students and ASG advisor, said she was just pleased that people were thinking about the framework and were submitting “...thoughtful questions and comments that showed people are engaged and want to know more.”
Student attendees told The Bulletin that they were discouraged by some deflection from Hobson and Shelley Gehrke, ASG adviser and vice president for enrollment management and student success, on their questions.
Students asked a range of questions including about what programs were in the “strike zone.”
Programs in ESU’s “strike zone,” as Hush referred to it in his Wednesday email, will receive more resources. However, Hush did not define what those resources were or how they would manifest.
“Until they give us more to work with, everything’s just leading to uncertainty,” Bruno said. “Personally, I would not be surprised if this bleeds over into how professors teach and how everyone who is going to be affected by this is going to react to it.”
Gharmalkar and Anthony Bruno, senior business administration major, said they were concerned with the lack of information, that ESU didn’t have a clear “game plan” and what the ripple effect of this decision would be for future students.
“I assumed after this I would feel more confident in the decision, and I don’t,” Gharmalkar said. “Like I said earlier, you can’t make an informed decision like this without a game plan and it appears that there isn’t one.”
Despite their concerns, the student attendees said they did not believe the misinformation stemmed from any ill will from the administration. Instead, the plan to dismiss the employees shows that the university is a business that needs to make money.
“I don’t think there’s malice or (ill) intent behind any of this,” Bruno said. “It’s business. It’s all money. So I think everyone here at the end of the day is trying to do the best of their ability.”
A video recording of the meeting is available for students to view through the ASG page at emporia.edu.
The feedback was submitted to university general counsel Kevin Johnson, according to Price. The final framework will be put to vote at the KBOR meeting this week.
Sarah Spicer advises The Bulletin on stories about Emporia State’s framework to dismiss employees.
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