Misericordia University has notified 10 faculty members that it will not renew their contracts, according to a memo written Tuesday by University President Kathleen Owens.
Dr. David Rehm, Vice President of Academic Affairs at the university, has contacted each of the affected faculty members to “express our regret and deep gratitude for their service to the Misericordia community,” Owens wrote in the memo.
“While last spring and summer saw furloughs and layoffs affecting our staff colleagues, these are first such actions in over 30 years affecting our family members,” she wrote. “This announcement comes at a particularly tender time for our faculty community.”
Two weeks ago, Owens announced a newly adopted resolution from the board of trustees suspending the awarding of tenure and placing a freeze on new tenure-track appointments pending a review of where the university stands with tenure and how to continue it.
Faculty members in their sixth year remain eligible for promotion in rank and salary increase.
“Our faculty are the embodiment of Misericordia’s mission, and it pains all of us that such decisions — while necessary — may seem to conflict with our core values of mercy and justice,” Owens wrote. “Please know that these are not decisions we made lightly. They are decisions we are called to make as stewards of the university.”
At university-wide meetings, Owens said she has shared that Misericordia University’s financial footing is steady but the “ground on which our financial footing rests — the broader educational landscape — is challenged and unpredictable.”
Across the higher education landscape, she said colleges and universities are enacting similar measures in anticipation of a “reshaped, post-COVID-19 environment.”
The challenges are expected to be more acute among Catholic institutions, she said.
“These measures, however painful for our departing faculty, their families, and our broader community, will help the university withstand the economic, competitive and geographic factors that could challenge us in the long term,” Owens wrote.
She said the administrative team is working diligently to “creatively deploy our resources” to ensure to minimize the impact the announcement might have on students’ experiences.
She doesn’t expect the most recent faculty reductions will limit academic major and minor offerings.
“It is my sincere hope that our entire Misericordia community will fully engage in the forthcoming strategic planning process designed to position the university for a thriving future,” Owens wrote. “I am hopeful that we can get through these challenges well-positioned for many bright tomorrows.”