Loyola sees fourth round of faculty buyouts

Photo credit: The Maroon

Photo credit: The Maroon

India Yarborough

After a 28-year relationship with Loyola, psychology professor Lawrence Lewis’ future with the institution is uncertain.

Lewis, a Loyola alumnus and associate professor of 13 years, accepted a voluntary severance package in May of this year as part of the university’s most recent round of faculty buyouts. His severance goes into effect January 2018.

Lewis is one of 14 faculty members who accepted buyouts this year, according to University Provost David Borofsky. He said the university also cut 27 staff positions, 21 of which were formerly vacant, all in an effort to reduce spending and grow the school’s revenue.

“Through our transformational strategic planning process called Project Magis, we offered buyouts as part of our effort to produce cost efficiencies in all areas of the university,” Borofsky said.

According to Lewis, accepting the buyout will allow him more time to address personal health concerns and pursue other professional interests—though he does hope to continue teaching part-time “contingent on the university’s needs.”

Sociology Professor Luis Miron described the buyout process as “fair” and was happy to accept a severance package to help relieve Loyola’s financial deficit of $7 million. Borofsky, however, expects that number to drop as students continue to enroll.

“Although I had planned to teach at least two more years, I wanted to help my university reduce its significant deficit and at the same time transition to emeritus status where I could devote more time to [the Institute for Quality and Equity in Education], focusing on community-engaged research and evaluation projects,” Miron said.

Both professors, however, worry about the buyouts’ viability.

“I perceive some concern [among faculty] that any benefit from the buyout scheme may yield only a relatively small and short-term effect while depriving the university community of some of its more dedicated and experienced faculty,” Lewis said.

Borofsky said no classes will be canceled this semester, but Miron, who teaches a first-year seminar, is uncertain who would teach a course he expected to offer in spring 2018.

“Loyola will need to find a replacement for my FYS, which I had agreed to teach in the spring and fall,” Miron said.

He added he would be willing to teach the course as emeritus faculty.

“Transforming is not an easy task,” Borofsky said. “It takes effort, and teamwork, and finding new ways to do things.”

Miron said given statements from university administration, “buyouts and the significant increase in enrollment among undergraduates won’t solve the deficit.”

Loyola’s fall 2017 freshman class totals just over 800 students, 150 more than were enrolled as freshmen at the start of the fall 2016 semester, according to numbers provided by Loyola’s University Fact Book.

Though freshmen enrollment is looking up, recent numbers have not reached the enrollment size of five years ago. According to the University Fact Book, 953 freshmen students enrolled for the fall 2012 semester — the year before Loyola hit a financial roadblock and implemented its first round of faculty buyouts.

“The university has seen fluctuating enrollment numbers for the past five years,” Borofsky said. “The enrollment decline began specifically in 2013. This decline caused the university to seek ways to better manage our resources, including offering voluntary buyouts to faculty.”

The provost expects results of Project Magis — a core, strategic planning process meant to help the university become financially sustainable and more efficient — to be fully recognized within the next few school years.

“Project Magis has surfaced new plans, ideas and systems that are expected not only to change how we do things at Loyola, but to help us grow and put the university financially ahead $21 million by the start of the fall 2019 school year,” he said.

A financial excess could mean the end of a four-year trend of encouraging faculty buyouts.

“The results of Project Magis initiatives will be fully realized by 2019-20,” Borofsky said. “And everyone at Loyola will be by then well in the habit of operating more efficiently, collaboratively, and effectively.”