If tenured faculty members at Indiana University of Pennsylvania are to be laid off through a retrenchment process, they have to be informed by Friday, according to the president of their statewide union.

“We keep getting different information,” Association of Pennsylvania State College and University Faculties president Dr. Jamie Martin said Monday. “It is not clear what percentage would be adjunct (professors), what percentage would be tenure-track.”

Staff reductions seem likely, as IUP prepares to combine its College of Humanities and Social Sciences and College of Fine Arts into an as-yet-unnamed college focused on the creative arts, humanities and design and reduces a net 43 academic programs.

That was announced after reports that a significant number of faculty layoffs is a possibility from IUP and six other Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education institutions.

“The big thing that has been overlooked in all these discussions is the students and the impact on them,” Martin said. “President (Dr. Michael) Driscoll said that we have to reimagine IUP. I don’t know how firing 120 faculty, closing programs and having the highest costs is student-centered. You are going to have students who started their careers at IUP … and won’t be able to finish.”

“We will take the steps necessary, if a student is in one of those programs, to find a way to ‘teach out’ those programs so that those students can get an IUP degree with the great experiences that they are expecting, and rightly so,” Driscoll said earlier this month.

Martin questioned that idea: “If they discontinue a program and retrench all the faculty in a given department,” the APSCUF president said, “There is nobody there to teach those classes.”

APSCUF members believe they are going to bear the burden for problems that date in some cases to before current administrators were in place at either IUP or PASSHE.

Referring to Dr. Tony Atwater, who was IUP president from 2005 to 2010, Martin said, “he made a rash decision to go on a building frenzy. They spent $270 million on the residence halls. We spent over $50 million to build the Kovalchick (Convention and Athletic Complex). This led to massive debt. President Driscoll was not responsible for those decisions.”

On the other hand, Martin blames some policies that took effect during Driscoll’s administration, which apparently helped what has been a 33 percent decrease in IUP enrollment over the past decade.

“Between 2010 and 2015, the decline was by only 9 percent,” he said. “Since his decision to implement the per-credit tuition model, enrollment has fallen by 20 percent.”

Martin also said Driscoll has failed to talk about how full-time faculty at IUP has decreased by 24 percent over the past decade.

However, when Driscoll announced plans earlier this month meant to create a stronger, more student-centered “IUP Next Gen,” he said, “We were already on a path of reducing our workforce.”

Driscoll pointed to 150 faculty jobs lost through attrition since 2014.

“The State System, like public educators all across the country, have been confronting challenges that are nationwide but acutely felt here in Pennsylvania,” PASSHE spokesman David Pidgeon said Monday. “Even before the pandemic, we were working on maintaining and even recapturing our affordability edge in the marketplace.”

Martin questioned why issues that have been brought up since February about financial sustainability in the State System hadn’t been brought up during lengthy contract talks between the system and APSCUF that concluded with a four-year agreement that was signed early this year.

“At no point during the negotiations did the issue of the dire financial situation that would lead to the need to retrench 300 faculty members ever come up,” Martin said in comments to the PASSHE Board of Governors at its quarterly meeting earlier this month. “Does anyone in attendance here today believe that we would not be interested in developing alternatives to that during negotiations?”

Expanding on those comments Monday, Martin said, “We took a pay freeze and made additional concessions (and) no sooner was the ink dry on the contract that the chancellor put into place the financial sustainability process.”

“We’ve been upfront with the public about the choices that we have ahead of us,” Pidgeon said. “We knew that we had to challenge the status quo. We have been upfront about needing to better align costs with revenues.”