Co-written by Angela Groom and Amy MacArthur
Due to a budget shortfall during the 2015-2016 school year, the board of trustees laid off staff and faculty on Thursday, August 4. Of the six that were laid off, the termination of two full-time faculty, Dr. Russ Reeves and professor John Milton, have been the most sobering for the current student body and alumni.
Admissions counselor Justin Baker was laid off. Courtney Withington has resigned from her position. Other cuts of staff included Justin Baker’s position cut from full to half time and is now being filled by someone who will have a dual role of assistant volleyball coach and RD. Ruby Bleeker has moved away and her old job, as Belcher’s assistant, is now a half-time position instead of full-time.
Dr. Reeves was responsible for the launch of the Honors program, senior capstones, as well as impacting students through his various classes in theology, humanities, and church history in an immeasurably powerful way. Professor Milton was in charge of numerous business classes, served as interim VPAA, and served as Director of Institutional Research.
Due to the outcry from the student body via social media and e-mails to various board members, President Belcher and a handful of administrators announced an open-forum type meeting the following day on-campus. The administration wanted to be clear that this will not be the only meeting held but wanted to be as transparent as possible.
A crowd of 22 students and alumni gathered in MacGavran Hall to meet with President Belcher, Mark Rippetoe, Michael Kiledjian, and Larissa Kamps on Friday August 5th to discuss the recent downsizing. Numerous other students participated remotely via conference-call.
President Belcher opened the meeting in prayer then promptly explained that due to the loss of 25 students from the fall semester to the spring semester, and the recruitment of only ten new students, the school’s operational loss came to an estimated 330,000 dollars.
A record $2.2 million ($200,000 over the projected number) was raised and mostly unrestricted but spending still had to be frozen due to the operational loss during the 2015-2016 fiscal year, which ended July 1st.
As far as the third space project goes, (outside the cafeteria) funds and materials donated for the specific project were given to Providence after July 1st and therefore after the fiscal year had ended.
Dr. Belcher stated that according to Dr. Ann Hamilton, the interim Vice President of Academic Affairs, we should, “move forward as planned.” In other words, interviewing new adjunct faculty members as replacements to take on their classes is in progress. At this point, there is no intention to drop these classes; all books and syllabuses already posted will remain the same.
The honors program (which was set to be launched by Dr. Reeves in the fall 2016 semester) is in the process of being restructured and will still be available to students who are academically eligible. The administration is currently working on a plan for the nine or more students who had intended to, or were already in the process of, writing their capstone under Milton and Reeves.