During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in late 2020, The Equinox reported that 90 different faculty and staff members were retiring, n turn eliminating 20 staff lines and 21 faculty lines. In July of 2021, President Melinda Treadwell announced that the college bought out 25 faculty members as part of an Enhanced Separation Agreement plan.

Over a year after the leaves, questions still remain about the future of the positions and if any similar moves are planned in the future.

KSC Provost James Beeby said he doesn’t see any Enhanced Separation Agreements happening again anytime soon. “I don’t see an Enhanced Separation Package or Agreement…in the future of the institution. I think we’ve made some really good strides in the last year and a half,” he said.

Beeby added that decisions regarding faculty were “never easy.” He also noted that he believes KSC currently has a good faculty-to-student ratio. In October of 2022, The Equinox reported that the studentto-faculty ratio at KSC had increased from 13:1 to 15:1, with the college’s stated goal of reaching a 20:1 ratio.

In a 2021 interview with The Keene Sentinel, President Treadwell stated in an interview that the faculty cuts were made with budgetary concerns in mind, as well as the studentto-faculty ratio and historically low-enrollment programs.

According to The Sentinel, the departments hit the hardest were American Studies, Geography, Physics, and Women’s and Gender Studies, though Physics and Women’s and Gender Studies still offer a minor program.

Vice President for Finance and Administration Nathalie Houder explained that there were no plans to bring back the positions of faculty who retired under SERPs (Supplemental Executive Retirement Plans) in late 2020. Houder also said that there is a financial consideration when faculty cuts occur, but the college works to look at all aspects before making those decisions.

Dean of Faculty Affairs Karrie Kalich said that KSC works fill certain positions when possible. “We’ve been able to augment our teaching staff with adjunct faculty members, who oftentimes are working professionals who could really supplement the teaching that’s happening in a program because they’re active in the field and could bring relevant and current stories into the classroom” she said.

Kalich added, “We, certainly over the last couple years, have had to be even more thoughtful about the course offerings we have because we’re really trying to ensure that we can still deliver over 50 majors to less than 3,000 students.” She said. “So, we like students to come here and feel like they have academic choice… but that requires us, to have so many offerings and a smaller student body, to be really strategic and thoughtful about the course offerings we have available, so we make sure that all students in any program are able to move towards completion.”

At November’s All-Campus Meeting, President Treadwell announced that administration was going to have ongoing discussions with department chairs about how best to match their curriculums, as well as possible changes that they’d make. Kalich said that these discussions have been “an interactive process” and that the administration has been listening carefully to the chairs’ recommendations.

“We’re running 499 sections of different courses for students to choose from in the spring semester, and we build that schedule in a collaborative process with chairs, so there’s times where our office will question, ‘Are these two 300-level classes that we offer both semesters, that have been chronically under-enrolled, is it possible to offer this one in the fall and make sure everyone gets in it, then offer this one in the spring?’” she explained.

When asked about student concerns regarding not being able to take classes for their major when they need to, Kalich said, “… Occasionally I do hear the stories that someone couldn’t get a class or they didn’t graduate, what I’d say is that it never knowingly happens.”

Nathan Hope can be contacted at
nhope@kscequinox.com

 

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