Wright State campus | Photo by Soham Parikh | The Wright State Guardian
The Wright State University (WSU) Board of Trustees met virtually on both Thursday, Feb.18 and Friday, Feb.19, unanimously affirming the retrenchment of up to 113 excess faculty positions, passing a resolution to extend WSU President Sue Edwards contract and receiving various campus updates from university leaders.
As a part of the ongoing retrenchment procedures that began at WSU in Nov. 2020, President Edwards presented her final recommendation for retrenchment proceedings to the board after carefully analyzing two different reports; one designed by former Interim Provost Douglas Leaman, the other designed by the WSU retrenchment committee.
After a detailed analysis of both reports, Edwards concluded that “up to” 113 excess faculty positions at WSU should be cut in order to adjust to WSU’s decreased enrollment over four academic semesters, one that is anticipated to persist.
“I recommend the Wright State Board of Trustees affirm the elimination of up to 113 excess faculty positions and approve the formal retrenchment of up to 113 full-time faculty positions. That number is on the lower side of the Provost recommendations, but I believe it to be reasonable and appropriate with respect to correcting our disproportionate faculty size compared against current and expected enrollment,” WSU President Sue Edwards said.
“I am recommending an ‘up to’ retrenchment number because there are multiple alternatives available that can achieve the elimination of excess positions and then reducing the actual number of positions formally retrenched,” Edwards said.
“The board will see further recommendations addressing some of these other options. The joint committee has requested the university to officially pause or suspend the retrenchment process in order to implement some of these types of measures, however, it must be acknowledged similar measures have been tried previously with very limited success,” Edwards said.
Workforce reductions will take place over an 18-month period, allowing time for fewer than 113 positions to be retrenched, should future enrollment numbers boast higher than currently anticipated.
“This is potentially a great tool, given the retrenchment notice period is long. In some cases, up to 18 months,” said Edwards. “That affords the opportunity to scale the number of retrenched positions accordingly.”
Moving forward, Edwards announced to the board that she will immediately engage with the university’s newly announced Interim Provost, Dr. Oliver Evans to work with college deans to finalize a list of specific faculty positions to be retrenched.
Evans starts his position as Interim Provost with the university on Tuesday, Feb. 23.
“I am confident the Interim Provost working with the Deans and Chairs have the knowledge and experience they need to develop specific plans which will ensure Wright State’s ability to deliver an affordable, high-quality public education to the Dayton region,” Edwards said.
In addition to affirming Edwards’s recommendation of retrenching up to 113 excess faculty positions, the WSU Board of Trustees recognized Edwards’ dedication to the university and unwavering leadership during truly unprecedented times.
“I’d just like to say what an amazing job I think Dr. Edwards has done over the past year,” National Trustee Anuj Goyal said. “It just amazes me what she and her team have been able to accomplish in the midst of a pandemic and at a time when Wright State has faced many other hardships as well.”
Per the documentation provided at the meeting, Edwards was originally contracted to serve as university President through June 30, 2022.
Edwards’s current contract additionally grants bonus compensation of up to 25% of her base salary for completing pre-determined goals as set by the board, however Edwards declined to accept the bonus and in turn, suggested the board consider offering all university employees who are not already contractually guaranteed an increase for fiscal year 2022 a compensation pool adjustment similar in amount to the increase promised to the bargaining unit faculty.
Edwards was subsequently authorized and directed by the board to investigate the feasibility of a fiscal year 2022 compensation pool adjustment for all university employees who are not already contractually guaranteed a compensation poll adjustment for fiscal year 2022.
Edwards will present her report and recommendation to the board on this matter as part of the fiscal year 2022 budget presentation.
Upon hearing unanimous support from the board, Edwards’s administrative appointment as university President was extended until June 30, 2025.
Director of Disability Services (ODS) Tom Webb presented an update to the board describing ways that WSU has been able to achieve national recognition in different areas.
“This past fall we were ranked the number three most wheelchair-friendly university in the country by the new Mobility Magazine and the United Spinal Association,” Webb said. “They came to campus and did close to three months’ worth of investing and touring campus so it’s great to have that level of detail go into how they decide their rankings and to see Wright State among the top of those rankings.”
Webb also mentioned that WSU’s Wingerd Service Dog Park is the first service dog park in the country, and has garnered attention from other universities around the U.S.
“We get calls quite frequently from other universities around the country wanting to know how we set up a service dog park on campus,” Webb said.
This recognition grants ODS easier access to national partners that are seeking collaboration with the university.
“The Christopher & Diana Reeve Foundation have been very supportive of Wright State and ODS historically,” Webb said. “We have Obi robotic arms that help our students with physical disabilities eat independently. We have one located in The Hangar, and one located in the Union Market. This allows for students to sit with their friends and eat without having a third wheel present as they are eating lunch.”
The next Board of Trustees meeting begins at 11 a.m. on Friday, March 5.
The meeting will be available for public viewing and can be accessed here.