Cal U boss cheered at convocation
With the California University of Pennsylvania budget in the black for the first time in five years, Interim President Geraldine M. Jones received a standing ovation at a faculty-staff convocation Thursday in Steele Hall.
Jones announced that a letter involving the possible furlough of professors has been rescinded. Rather, Cal U will undergo a workforce development plan – a review of the academic programs that will be used to direct resources toward courses of study students want.
“From a business standpoint, this approach makes good sense,” Jones said. “To secure Cal U's future, we must align our payroll, programs and services with the resources available.”
Jones' message was a hit with Dr. Michael Slavin, president of the Cal U chapter of Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties.
“She hit an absolute home run,” Slavin said afterward. “She met my challenge. I challenged her to focus on academics. Now I'm holding her to it. Words are one thing, actions are another.
“She's a tough lady. She's up for the challenge. She has my support.”
Speaking at the event before Jones, Slavin asked her administration not to blame the faculty for the university's fiscal woes. He said faculty growth has not matched enrollment gains over the past decade. He said the ratio of faculty to students is 26-1, but later admitted that figure was based on 2012-13 figures.
Jones said the ratio is 21.35 to 1.
“In fact, if anything, we need more managers on the academic side and more faculty,” Slavin said during the convocation.
He challenged Jones and Robert Thorn, vice president for administration and finance.
“We all know that you did not create the financial mess we now face, but please, make a break with the past,” Slavin sad. “Don't continue the bankrupt, failed ideas that got us here. Don't pretend that we are facing this crisis just because enrollment is down or that our governor cut out state funding.
“Admit that the major cause of this financial crisis was poor management decisions. Do not continue to support the bad choices of the past administration.”
The past administration was led by Dr. Angelo Armenti Jr., who was fired by the State System of Higher Education, which governs 14 state-owned universities.
A little over a year ago, the university's deficit was projected to be nearly $12 million.
A year ago, when Jones addressed the faculty-staff convocation, the budget deficit was projected at $4.2 million and $2.9 million by the spring convocation.
On Thursday, Jones said Cal U will have a slight surplus, which will be returned to the fund reserve generally used for emergency spending – not to balance the budget.
The budget ax fell across the board Jones said. Measures taken to reduce the deficit:
• Reduction in discretionary allocations.
• Elimination of 2011-12 fund reserves.
• Reduction in a Southpointe lease.
• Reductions in athletics expenditures.
• Reducing some staff positions through attrition.
• Reduction in Vulcan flyer bus service.
• Reduction in service purchase contracts and professional services.
• Reduction in production copying and printing.
• Reduced travel.
• Reduced advertising.
• Reduced food service costs.
Jones said she will focus on a core mission of academics, stabilizing enrollment and restoring financial stability.
“Obviously, these three are linked together, and we're making progress,” Jones said.
While enrollment overall is down by a little more than 3 percent over the 2012-13 school year, freshman enrollment is up 26 percent.
“Families are responding to the message that Cal U is a good university,” Jones said. “This is a good sign that we're on the way toward stabilizing university enrollment.”
Campus housing is at 99.3 percent capacity.
“For too many years, wishful thinking has taken the place of sound fiscal management here at Cal U,” Jones said. “We need to secure the gains we made this year.
“We must all be advocates for our students and champions for Cal U. I'm sure we can all agree on the value of open dialogue. We are all Cal U. If we all support one another, we can accomplish great things.”
Asked after the event if her words were a message to the state system, which has yet to remove her “interim” title, Jones noted her 40 years of service to Cal U.
“While I am in this role, I will do whatever is best for this university,” Jones said. “That decision is for the state system.”
Chris Buckley is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2642 or firstname.lastname@example.org.