Board of Trustees approves faculty retrenchment recommendations to align with enrollment needs, preserve Wright State’s delivery of affordable, high-quality public education

As part of Wright State University’s continuing efforts to preserve its ability to offer a highly affordable, high-quality public education to the Dayton region, the Wright State Board of Trustees voted today to approve a plan to eliminate up to 113 excess faculty positions at the university’s Dayton Campus.

The reduction in positions will occur gradually over an 18-month period and will not hinder the ability of current students to complete their degree programs in a timely manner.

“Certainly, this is a difficult decision for the university, and I assure everyone it is a decision we have not made lightly,” said Wright State University President Sue Edwards. “We have for quite some time focused on alternatives to these changes, including two separate rounds of retirement incentives, a reduced reliance on adjunct faculty and an effort to reduce by attrition. Unfortunately, those efforts have not sufficiently reduced the size of our excess faculty workforce. The continuing enrollment declines require us to act further.”

The faculty workforce reductions were commenced through an agreed-upon process outlined in the existing Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) between the AAUP-WSU and Wright State University.

Articles T17 and N17 of the CBA acknowledge that faculty workforce reductions, called “retrenchment,” may become necessary as a result of, among other circumstances, a “significant reduction in enrollment” that continues over at least four semesters (not counting summers) and is expected to persist. Last fall, the university reported to the Ohio Department of Higher Education an enrollment of just over 12,000. The university’s overall enrollment has declined by more than 30% — not just over the last four semesters but over the last five years — and that reduced enrollment continued this spring.

“I am recommending an ‘up to’ retrenchment number because there are multiple alternatives available that can achieve the elimination of some of the excess positions and thus decrease the final number of positions actually needing to be formally retrenched,” Edwards said.

“If enrollment circumstances improve significantly, the CBA provides a mechanism for Wright State to reduce the number on the retrenchment list and potentially even call back retrenched faculty,” she said. “That affords the opportunity to decrease the number of positions appropriately as we gain additional enrollment.”

Faculty members affected by retrenchment will receive up to 18 months of notice during which they will continue to work and receive regular pay and benefits. The university intends to offer a significant workforce displacement support package.

During their public session, trustees also approved Edwards’ request to consider an employee voluntary separation incentive program.

“I recognize that type of program has been authorized in the past and that prior offerings were not widely successful in the faculty ranks,” Edwards said. “But such a program may be far more attractive to some today. We will work to structure an incentive plan in a manner that is beneficial to both the university and the employee.”

An additional investment of $1 million targeted to enrollment and retention efforts was also approved by the trustees.

“The Board of Trustees has previously supported our efforts to stabilize and bolster enrollment and retention,” said Edwards. “Building upon that support, I requested additional investment be made in key areas that could potentially offset the number of faculty positions impacted by retrenchment. I will consult with Faculty Senate on ways faculty can engage to the greatest effect.”

“Wright State is moving forward. It is, and will always be, an institution with student success at its heart,” said Tom Gunlock, chair of the Wright State Board of Trustees. “The people of Ohio created this university to ensure that students in our region have access to a high-quality, affordable education that propels them ahead in life. Wright State is here. Wright State will be here. And Wright State will continue to succeed in accomplishing that mission.”

“I acknowledge that change is sometimes difficult, but we will succeed by working together,” said Edwards. “The Dayton region needs a Wright State that they are proud of and one whose graduates are dedicated to making our local communities and the region thrive and grow stronger.”

Wright State’s regional economic impact is more than $1.5 billion. But more importantly, it is a major factor in the affordable public education and training of the region’s short-term and long-term workforce and community leadership.

Wright State students overwhelmingly come from the Dayton region and, more importantly, stay in the region after graduation. Statistics show more than 72% of Wright State’s approximately 116,000 alumni live, serve and work in Ohio.

Among dozens of four-year universities and colleges in Ohio, Wright State’s in-state undergraduate tuition remains among the most affordable in the state.

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