This story was updated on Feb. 21 at 2:59 p.m. Keep checking back for more.
Last week, at least 6 staff members at Saint Peter's University were fired amidst a university financial crisis that has forced $2,600,000 in budget reductions.
On Thursday, Feb.13, President Eugene Cornacchia addressed faculty members on the state of the university. He spoke of the “external pressures and realities” that have caused the university to no longer be sustainable.
The Pauw Wow has confirmed that the following employees were let go: Maria Santiago, Administrative Assistant of Campus Ministry; Fadia Joseph, Director of Public Policy; Barbara Melchione, Director of Learning Support Services and Kyle Rivers, Director of Web Services.
Cornacchia would not provide names but wrote in an email that the people holding the following titles were "eliminated": Administrative Assistant of Education and Physical Education, Director of Graduate and Adult Admissions and Administrative Assistant of Evening Dean.
In the meeting last week, Cornacchia explained the multiple steps the university is planning to better the financial state, which has already included realigning financial resources to close the “significant budget gap.”
“I worry one day we’re going to have an open house and no one shows up,” Cornacchia said.
To close the gap there has been $850,534 in salary savings, $349,440 in position reductions, $395,000 in 401k suspensions, a temporary and permanent 5% operating expense reduction of $292,452, a consultant and outsource reduction of nearly $91,000 and $350,000 in contract renegotiation savings.
But many faculty members did not take this information lightly.
“I feel like I’m not even working in Saint Peter’s anymore,” said Anna Brown, political science chair and associate professor.
Brown continued with her concern about the stability of their positions and thought that the institution’s plan is “market driven” and has “nothing to do with the mission or higher education.”
Chair and Professor of Modern and Classical Languages Mark DeStephano suggested that the university should market Saint Peter’s Jesuit mission and education more instead of its ranking achievements. Associate Professor of History Michael DeGruccio applauded DeStephano and said he agrees with his suggestion.
“I fear we are losing a grip on what we can sell,” DeGruccio said. “This talk about market forces is just an alibi. Students can get a job if education is doubled-down… I don’t blame you, Gene. I know (these decisions) are not only in your hands.”
But Cornacchia responded to the two professors and explained that students do not choose the institution for its Jesuit mission or education, they choose it for price, location and other conveniences. Cornacchia emphasized throughout the meeting that this is a reality SPU must face.
Some faculty expressed being concerned about the stability of their positions and thought that the institution’s plan is “market driven” and has “nothing to do with the mission or higher education.”
Further concerns stemmed from the firing of faculty members, which included four women and four minorities. Faculty members also expressed that, included in this group of position reductions, was an employee who had been with SPU for 33 years.
“We talk of diversity, but they’re the first to go,” Brown said.
Additionally, there were five positions, who were also not identified, that were offered to stay with hour reductions, but some chose not to, Cornacchia said. He said he believes one person accepted less hours.
“It was a very careful, thoughtful and painful process,” Cornacchia said.