Victor handles cuts as humanely as possible

Ryan Kushner, Opinion editor

There seems to be really no correct way to write this piece. How do you start? I figure that sometimes thoughtful pieces begin with a quote from a renowned philosopher, or maybe Michael Jackson.

So I’ve been searching through “Brainy Quote” and Wikipedia for the last half-hour, but I can’t really find anything that fits… but did you know Michael Jackson was a Leo?

On Friday, Feb. 5, the Mercyhurst administration announced that, due to the seriousness of the institution’s financial woes, it would be cutting down the number of faculty.

As Mercyhurst Provost David Dausey, Ph.D., spent a good amount of Friday pointing out to our editorial board, the faculty at Mercyhurst has increased by nearly 20 percent over the past five years, while student enrollment has declined a total of 9 percent. Cutting down the amount of faculty is, according to the administration, the best way to deal with this apparently newly discovered imbalance in the school’s financial situation.

While downsizing in troubled financial times is always painful and can lead to harsh criticism by many, the handling of this particular situation so far by the new administration, at least from this unusually gassy senior’s perspective, seems almost—dare I say it—humane. While the procedure must contain all the pleasures of crawling through broken glass, it seems the administration is dealing with the inherited problem with poise, transparency and a focus on keeping the university above water.

It is sometimes difficult, at least for me, to look at a university or place of higher learning as a business. Yet, when it comes down to it, Mercyhurst is indeed a place of business (whether or not that is entirely a good thing is a different story). Victor was hired largely in part for his keen business mind, and he is clearly displaying that sought-after intuition with his first extremely sensitive decision as president. He is (it seems) attempting to put the financial needs and desires of the students (the customers) first (among them, a plan to address the long-neglected upperclassman housing).

However, instead of suddenly handing several staff and faculty members a box and showing them out the gates (the notorious method adopted by the previous administration), senior faculty members will be offered retirement incentives in an attempt to thin out the amount of full-time faculty by the end of the year.

David Dausey, who was kind enough to reach out to the staff of The Merciad in an apparent gesture of good will and transparency toward students, explained in a calming voice, with kind eyes and at least one quote from W.B. Yeats, that the retirement incentives sent out to the senior faculty will be completely voluntary. They will also receive the title of Professor Emeritus and retain their current office space. Dausey also noted that the Human Resources department at Mercyhurst would work with other faculty, whose contracts will not be renewed, to find positions elsewhere.

These gestures of the administration are humane, if not simply refreshing in their decency, and certainly they are ones that represent the kind of values Mercyhurst should uphold: values that center on dignity and respect for the individual.

Yet, this perhaps does not make the cuts any easier. Much of the senior faculty, defined as being over the age of 55 and having at least 15 years of service at the University, have been pillars that have helped shape and define what is good and honest and interesting about Mercyhurst. These faculty members, many of whom hold a beloved and legendary status among students past and present, are now faced with the unfortunate and awkward pressure to end their full-time career earlier than planned.

The unfortunate fact is, however, that Victor and friends are facing the leftover problems of a University deep in the red, but they knew that going into this, and must have anticipated that they would have to make some tough calls early on. What has been good about these calls so far is that they appear to have been made with the Mercyhurst community and the Mercy Mission still on their minds.

It is no doubt an exceedingly difficult and unusual time at Mercyhurst. What is important is that the administration continues to remain open, humane and unified as the University continues forward, even if it does so with a noticeable limp, because it is showing care for one another that gives a community strength.

I did finally end up coming across an intro quote to use for this article, by the way. Better late than never, I suppose.

“The simplest and most practical lesson I know … is to resolve to be good today, but better tomorrow. … A community in which this universal charity reigns is capable of surmounting all difficulties.”
–Catherine McAuley