By Megan Heise
INDIANA — I shouldn’t be writing this right now.
I should be working on my course homework — revisions to an academic paper for publication and the creation of a sample course design for a first-year composition class. I should be planning my program’s first-annual Halloween Zoom party. I should be working on my upcoming conference presentation, a proposal that was accepted thanks to my professors’ feedback. I should be grading essays for my new job with the University of Texas. I should be writing for my Coalition for Community Writing & Herstory Fellowship, preparing to facilitate memoir-writing workshops with refugee and immigrant teens in Pittsburgh. I should be worrying about whether my Fulbright proposal will make it to the next round, not worrying about my professors losing their jobs.
But here we are, thanks to the NextGen proposal IUP announced just two weeks ago. I am a doctoral student in the Composition & Applied Linguistics program, which is likely to be hit incredibly hard by the retrenchments. I say likely because nothing about this process has been transparent, and even still it’s unclear on what basis retrenchment numbers by department were determined, and how retrenchments within each department will be decided.
We do know it’s likely to be based on seniority, and if that is the case, all three English department faculty being retrenched will be from our already-understaffed program. And these brilliant, committed, specialized faculty are nowhere near alone.
Roughly 130 faculty are being cut from across colleges, programs, and degree programs. This spells the end not only of the three programs being eliminated entirely — Journalism, Management & Information Systems, and Developmental Studies — but of many more programs, including mine, that are losing 25 percent, 30 percent, even 50 percent of our faculty. Puzzlingly enough, some of these impacted programs are in STEM disciplines, despite the administration’s platitudes about prioritizing STEM. Across colleges, across departments, and across programs, we are learning more and more each day that we are all impacted.
IUP’s Comprehensive Planning Narrative from September 2020 articulates three core strategic goals: (1) Be a student-centered university; (2) Embrace the identity and value of IUP as a doctoral research university; (3) Change IUP’s culture to embrace and promote diversity, equity, and inclusion. The NextGen proposal overtly counters all three of these goals.
What is student-centered about returning IUP to its highest student-to-teacher ratio, a ratio much higher than our regional competitor universities? What is student-centered in a plan in which no students were consulted, a plan that an overwhelming amount of students are vocally against? How can IUP advance as a doctoral university when programs like mine are seeing a 50 percent faculty cut and facing being collapsed into other, non-related graduate programs? How can doctoral students succeed at IUP if their dissertation committees are gone? And how exactly will IUP promote diversity, equity, and inclusion when it’s slashing programs that draw regional as well as international students and eliminating 25 percent of the faculty, as well as non-faculty staff?
I — we — shouldn’t be literally losing sleep and dealing with constant fear, anxiety, and an inability to focus due to this unilateral administrative decision. There has been no honesty, no transparency, no accountability, and rather an astounding amount of cognitive dissonance and gaslighting as the administration tries to shoehorn this proposal through, even in the face of widespread opposition.
This is not the university I was proud to become a part of, and I am saying, as loud as I possibly can, #ShameOnIUP in order to #SaveIUP. The proposed restructuring and retrenchment plan directly harms my education, and I am speaking out not only to save my education and my professors’ jobs, but also to try to spread more awareness of the devastating impacts of this plan across all IUP colleges and programs.
PRESIDENT DRISCOLL, RECONSIDER. Find other ways to support IUP’s financial health, and do so in conversation with faculty, staff, students, alumni, and community members. I worry deeply about the future of IUP if you don’t.
Megan Heise, an Indiana, Pa., native, is a second-year Ph.D. candidate in Composition and Applied Linguistics at IUP and an organizer of the #ShameOnIUP student protest of the university’s proposed restructuring. She plans to graduate in May 2024 after completing her dissertation. With a Master in Fine Arts degree in Creative Writing, she has taught composition and creative writing at universities in the United States and with non-profits around the world. She is part of the inaugural Coalition for Community Writing / Herstory Fellows cohort.