Indiana University of Pennsylvania President Dr. Michael A. Driscoll applauded students and staffers on their reaction to “an offensive and racist social media post by a student.”
It was “not the first and unfortunately not likely the last at IUP or in our broader society,” Driscoll said in his report Thursday to the quarterly meeting of IUP’s Council of Trustees. “I was glad to see how quickly our team acted, responding to expressions of disappointment that this sort of thing could happen at IUP, and to concerns about safety.”
Driscoll covered a wide range of topics in his report, from the recent relaunch of IUP’s brand to the University College for students formerly called “undecided” but now termed “explorers.”
Earlier Thursday, Interim Vice President for Administration and Finance Susanna C. Sink said the university made $15.2 million in permanent budget reductions and $5.6 million in one-time reductions. Those actions were aimed at countering a deficit expected because of lower enrollment projections and increases in salaries and wages. These actions helped wipe out a projected $20.8 million deficit in the university’s 2019-20 budget.
However, much of Driscoll’s focus was on the effects of a Snapchat post reputedly posted a week ago by IUP criminology student Nicholas Enders.
Enders has not been identified by the university but others have identified him,
including Rachael Henderson, who, like Enders, is a criminology student at IUP.
She had close to 1,400 signatures as of late Thursday on a change.org petition urging the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education to expel Enders from IUP.
“I am most impressed at how our students comported themselves at a university forum on Tuesday, and a second forum on Wednesday, with courage as well as dignity and respect for others, sound questions and good suggestions,” Driscoll told the trustees. “Their clearest message is that we must work proactively, continually and visually to move closer to our vision of a diverse and inclusive community where hate has no place.”
Driscoll gave special thanks to university Vice President for Student Affairs Dr. Thomas Segar, Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer Elise Glenn, Chief Marketing Officer Chris Noah and Provost Dr. Timothy Moerland, as well as “everyone who actively responded to this situation, and to everyone who will continue to work through this particular issue.”
Driscoll said IUP’s fundamental purpose is to help people to learn, sometimes by opportunities the institution provides, and sometimes by how it reacts to a negative situation.
“We had both this week,” Driscoll said, also referring to the university’s 18th annual remembrance of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, during which Noah, trustee Laurie Kuzneski and Public Safety and Police Director Kevin Thelen were speakers.
“We’ve reached the point that many of our students have no real memory of this tragedy,” the IUP president said in recapping Wednesday’s remembrance. “But as we always do we honor our commitment to never forget our alumni and all the people we lost, and to provide perspective as we do so.”
Other topics addressed by the IUP president included System Redesign, the process started two years ago by PASSHE meant to result in what Chancellor Dr. Daniel Greenstein has termed a “sharing system” designed specifically around the needs of students at the 14 state-owned universities.
“As I told the university community in my Opening of the Academic Year address (Aug. 23), the System Redesign is moving to a place where IUP has, for the first time, a chance to determine its own destiny, but we must be accountable for the results of our decisions and success,” Driscoll said. “If we are not then the state system will step in and determine our destiny for us, so the time must be now.”
Driscoll also honored Segar, who has been on the job at IUP for about three months, for working with Aramark to reduce the cost of dining operations and ultimately the subsidy from IUP for that meal service.
“Meanwhile, we continue to work with the Foundation for IUP to reduce the cost of on-campus housing,” the university president said. “I hope to provide you with more information soon. As you know, even the least expensive dining and housing options at IUP exceed the cost of tuition.”
Driscoll noted how one dining facility, Folger Hall, has been repurposed “in response to a demonstrated need for a place for students to gather to collaborate on projects for class or for club activities, and to study.”