Marietta College to face new cuts

MARIETTA – The potential for another round of staffing cuts looms at Marietta College, and faculty and staff are being asked to provide feedback as college officials decide how to best adjust for a seven-figure budgetary shortfall predicted for the coming year.

After cutting 20 full-time positions in March, saving the college an estimated $1.1 million, the college is predicting a $2 million deficit for the 2014-2015 school year, according to a letter sent Wednesday to college staff by college Provost and Dean of Faculty Karyn Sproles.

Tom Perry, executive director for strategic communications and marketing for Marietta College, said Monday that student enrollment is partly to blame for the budgetary shortfall.

“We’ve got some enrollment issues that we’re trying to manage,” said Perry.

Enrollment predictions play a large role in guiding the budgetary process and any changes between predicted enrollment and actual enrollment cause the need for budgetary adjustments, he said.

In an email sent to faculty Sunday, Sproles references the college’s ongoing retention efforts, including the school’s pilot year of the MAP-Works program, a data platform which helps schools identify and address students who present a retention risk.

“I am confident that as we move ahead with our retention initiative we will realize substantial improvement in our enrollment, and that these efforts will be a key turning point for Marietta College,” writes Sproles.

Sproles was out of the country Monday and could not be reached for comment.

Staffing cuts are one of two options put forth in the letter sent last week to staff.

The college’s board of trustees could also be asked to consider slashing the school’s contribution to the employees’ retirement plans, from 8 percent to 4 percent, according to the letter.

Staffing reductions would save the college an estimated $573,000 while contribution cuts would save around $640,000.

Staff have been given the opportunity to provide feedback on which option they prefer through a form on the college’s website at marietta.edu/budgetfeedback/index.html.

While there was some discussion preceding the cuts in March, Associate Professor of Business and Economics Debbie Lazorik said Monday she appreciates that staff have been given a clearly defined forum in which to share their opinions about upcoming options this time around

“I am opposed to the reduction in retirement benefits,” she said.

Several other Marietta College professors did not return calls seeking comment Monday, as did college President Joseph Bruno and several college trustees.

Faculty and staff are being given the opportunity to share their input through Thursday, said Perry in a press release.

The March decision and the lack of information released regarding which positions were eliminated and why, as well as what other cost-savings measures had been attempted, caused concern among college students, alumni and donors.

The staffing cuts and lack of transparency surrounding them caused Marietta College donor Elizabeth Armor to put a halt on her annual contributions, which she and husband, John, a ’74 MC alum, had been making for 15 to 20 years.

“Nobody ever indicated to me there was a (budget) problem. It was a big shock to me,” said Elizabeth, who now lives in Texas.

She wrote a letter to Bruno stating her dissatisfaction with the cuts and asking what other options had been explored.

“He said something to the effect that they had already tried across-the-board cuts – people getting a pay cut – and there was no other way,” she said.

According to the letter sent Wednesday by Sproles, certain budgetary changes will be put in place no matter what option is eventually decided. Those would include freezing positions, operations cuts and the use of restricted funds.

Faculty reductions are a bad way to tackle budget problems, argued 2002 graduate Ryan Coleman, who now lives in Oakland, Calif.

“Every school has budgetary problems. Cutting faculty is a bad way to handle it. There are some very expensive administrators whom they will never cut,” he said.

Coleman suggested schools use discretion but dip into their endowment funds in times of crisis, to spare faculty who are the backbone of a valuable college education.