Wright State President waves white flag

In a campus wide email, newly minted “biologist masquerading as a university president” (her words in a campus wide call a few weeks ago) Dr. Sue Edwards throws the campus into despair with an email announcing coming staff cuts.

“Dear Campus Community,

As you are aware the current COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated Wright State University’s underlying financial condition. We know that tuition and state support, our largest revenue source, will be significantly reduced this coming year. I have been sharing with you in my twice weekly WebEx calls that the pandemic has accelerated the timeframe around which we must resize the university so we can operate within the revenue generated by an enrollment of 10,000 students and ultimately ensure that we continue to serve the needs of our region.

Reorganizational efforts are underway, and all departments, colleges, and units are impacted. A total of 35 faculty elected to participate in the Faculty Retirement Incentive Program and will separate from Wright State University over the next couple of months. We have over 430 employees voluntarily reducing their appointments and participating in the Shared Work Ohio program to further support our financial situation. As we look forward, we must now turn to the some of the most difficult decisions.

It is with a heavy heart that I announce, beginning today, we will commence notification of involuntary position eliminations. This will impact approximately 50 occupied positions on our campuses. Some will not have contracts renewed, some are retiring, while others will be provided notice and/or other applicable options. Human Resources has prepared separation materials and will accompany university supervisors while they hold notification meetings with impacted employees. Regrettably, due to the current limitations of COVIC-19 safety precautions, these meetings will be held via WebEx. However, employees will be provided materials in both an electronic format as well as mailed paper copies of the materials to their homes.

We are committed to concluding meetings no later tan Thursday, June 18. As a reminder, the employees holding these positions remain part of the Raider and Laker Families through their notice period (between four to 24 weeks). Take your lead from them, but please show your support during this difficult time.

The university will provide outplacement support for these employees through LHH. Services will include career coaching, resume writing assistace, interview preparation, and career learning courses. Further, we will continue to provide access to our tuition remission benefits for two years post-employment for both employees and their dependents.

Our impacted employees, as well as all employees of the university, will continue to have access to our Employee Assistance Prgram provider, Impact Solutions, as a resource, and support is available 247

I recognize these are difficult and uncertain times for all of the Wright State Family. We will continue to make every effort to move through these processes as diligently and compassionately as possible, ensuring that focus remains on the respectful treatment of our employees.

Best wishes,

Sue.”

If you contrast her sky is falling leadership with that of Clark State’s capable president, Jo Alice Blondin you start to wonder how Edwards still has a job.

From a DBJ article on Clark State:

What sorts of adaptations are administrators/leadership at Clark State brainstorming right now?

We have a four-part approach to our response to this pandemic. Response is No. 1. No. 2 is recovery, No. 3 is positioning and No. 4 is transformation. We have a virtual committee that we formed called “Transform Clark State” so that we don’t lose any of the opportunities and silver linings that have happened as a result of this pandemic — because there are many, believe it or not. Transform Clark State is working on developing those stages and recommendations….

The biggest change that students will see in the fall is many different options for the term. We’re offering four-week, six-week, eight-week, 10-week, 12-week and 16-week classes, plus online. We do still have physically distanced, face-to-face opportunities for students to come to campus in the fall, because so much of the instruction we do is hands-on. However, we’re also supplementing those courses with as much online learning as possible, but collapsing the term so that they can get their work done very quickly.

Some courses will start Aug. 24, which is our first day of classes. Some will start two weeks after that, and (so on). We have a staggered start; staggered terms, and that should be very helpful and flexible for our students — particularly the population of students who are both working and caring for children.

What are you projecting in terms of enrollment?

We are projecting a slight uptick for fall.

Our enrollment management strategy has always been focused on our affordability, our flexibility and the services that we provide students — and I think that message is resonating right now during these extremely uncertain times…..

We’ll be in recovery for a while, but we’re also moving into the positioning part. We are very attractive to high school students who have recently graduated and may have considered going to a four-year residential university, and are now saying, “I’m going to stay close to home. I’m going to save money for a year and go to Clark State. Everything transfers, it has a good reputation, and it’s a high-quality institution. Next year, I’ll consider the residential experience.” Because the residential experience is extremely uncertain right now.

Are you employing any financial adjustments to offset anticipated revenue shortfalls?

In early May, the governor announced budget cuts for fiscal year 2020. Our share was approximately $600,000, and we absorbed that. We have a very strong financial picture, and our concern was not for fiscal year 2020 — our concern is for fiscal year 2021. We’re awaiting the specific guidance on cuts for fiscal year 2021 from the state. However, Clark State is planning on a 20% budget cut in our State Share of Instruction (SSI).

We have suspended travel. We have relooked at every capital and equipment expenditure and held those for the foreseeable future, unless they directly impact technology necessary for students to complete programs.

We have not implemented a hiring freeze, and we have not furloughed employees to date, nor have we cut salaries to date. One of my principles of leadership is to ensure we have the right people to move our institution forward. I want to make sure we’re planning for the future and positioning ourselves well, (even as) we react and respond to the current environment. That’s a delicate balance for leaders, and I understand why some are making those cuts. But at this time, we’re hiring for faculty positions in medical laboratory technology and diagnostic medical sonography. In some of our general education areas, we have hired a number of faculty in the past several months, because those are positions that drive our institution.

Might we expect to see any changes in the realm of collaboration at Clark State?

A definite silver lining has been the collaboration we’ve had internally. We always have prided ourselves on being a great team, but I think that that has been tested, and we have gotten an A+ in terms of internal collaboration among our faculty, staff, students, board of trustees and our workforce partners.

We have seen more creativity in collaboration with our workforce partners in manufacturing and agriculture, as well as with our four-year university partners. We work closely with Wittenberg University, and we are great partners with Franklin University. With Urbana University having closed, Clark State has worked with Franklin on ensuring that all those students have opportunities in our region.

So, there are many opportunities around partnership. The biggest, though, is among our health units, our emergency management agencies and our healthcare facilities, such as Mercy Health in Springfield. They have been such a great partner for us.

What factors will guide how Clark State focuses its resources moving forward?

We have a strategic plan, and the pandemic hasn’t changed that.

Source: https://www.bizjournals.com/dayton/news/2020/06/12/president-blondin-clark-state-adapted-to-pandemic.html Jun 12, 2020, 2:22pm EDT

This reporters attempts to meet with Edwards to discuss strategic repositioning of Wright State were met with absolute stonewalling and attitude from Edwards. When Dr. Dan Curran reached out to her, she also chose to insert her own uninformed position on my insights and abilities to help her. Edwards clearly doesn’t value the products of her institution (I’m a grad) and she may as well just throw in the towel.

If Governor Mike DeWine could stop putting political appointees on the WSU Board of Trustees and actually install a board of competent folks, maybe it would never have gotten to this point. If nothing else, he might want to ask Blondin to step in and try to assist the rookie president who is doing more damage than good every day she continues to listen to the same folks who put Wright State in the tenuous position that brought Edwards to the University in the first place.

 

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