Editor’s Note: A slightly earlier version of this post indicated that the Tweet pictured below originated from Marcia Welsh’s account. It did not. She FAVORITED another Tweet. We caught the error shortly after the article first went live and made the corrections. We are sorry for the original error and any confusion.
While Mansfield University officials were first out of the gate announcing their specific targets for cuts this past Thursday, they are certainly not alone. Early indications are that East Stroudsburg University president, Marcia Welsh, plans on eliminating all the remaining music faculty and will continue to force students to sit in lower and upper-level science classes as large as 150.
But, according to ESU’s Twitterer-in-Chief, it seems the faculty are the source of all problems. Shortly after Ken Mash released his statement regarding the Mansfield University retrenchment plan, took pleasure in the world of Twitter again. In his statement, Mash wrote:
Today is a sad day for public higher education. Under the guise of ‘aligning programs for a strategic vision’ and ‘workforce needs,’ President Fran Hendricks announced yet another round of faculty retrenchment at Mansfield University; it is a maneuver that the university has used three times in as many years. Despite the verbiage of working on behalf of students, these proposed cuts and layoffs will be detrimental. Mansfield students and all of our students deserve more than politicking and wordsmithing; they deserve a high quality education.
Unable to keep her thumbs off her smartphone, Welsh promptly added her support to the following Tweet. She read it and without a second thought, favorited it:
If only her handlers could pre-approve her tweets and retweets ahead of time. Welsh’s disdain for faculty – especially any faculty member who dares to question her austerity plans – is well known on campus. But’s it’s also not limited to faculty. During an open forum about the retrenchment’s last year, Welsh sat at the front of the room tweeting about a student who was asking her a question. When she was confronted and asked if she was actually tweeting while the student was at the mic, she first denied it, but then was confronted with the time-stamped tweet she just sent out.
These are not isolated incidents. As I reported in August, in just one academic year, Welsh managed to call student activists “vampires” on Twitter, suggest that higher education is nothing more than a product on a shelf, and offend American Indian communities by calling for a rally to “beat on drums” like the Lenapi, Shawnee, and Iroquois in the name of “Warrior Pride” (the Warrior is ESU mascot). You might think with all the pressure to finally eliminate racist mascots from college and professional sports on the front pages of newspapers across the country, Welsh might have chosen another frame for her failed rally. Again, if only her handlers could pre-approve all the campus wide emails she send ahead of time.
What is most striking about Welsh is her unabashed willingness to scrub herself clean of any accountability for the consequences of her decisions. It is hard to know if she is spitefully clueless or just downright nasty (yes, @PresidentWelsh this is an invitation to take a swing at me as well. Please do. And, please tweet it).
Meanwhile, students and faculty are feeling the impact of Welsh’s austerity measures in very concrete ways. Writing in the East Stroudsburg University student newspaper last month, Chris Powers reported that despite the strong national push for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) programs, last year President Welsh targeted the schools chemistry and physics programs for some of the deepest cuts. The impact on students and program offerings has been tangible:
These changes have altered the way that ESU offers chemistry and physics classes. There is a sizable difference in class sizes and offerings between the last fall semester and the current semester.
According to Dr. Doherty, there are “zero chemistry gen. ed. sections offered instead of four, and I anticipate the same in the spring.” Doherty meant there are no general education classes intended for non-chemistry majors.
Additionally, instead of six sections of general chemistry, ranging from 40 to 58 students, there are now only two sections of general chemistry, at 131 and 152 students….
Laura Beimfohr, a biology graduate student, said, “When I took chemistry, there were 25 students in my section. Now having 160 people, I couldn’t even imagine.”
Beimfohr added, “I watched it transform from a small school atmosphere. If I were a senior in high school, I would not go to ESU”…
…the Biochemistry offering at ESU has changed from two sections of 42 and 16 students to one section of 69 students this year. The labs for Biochemistry I have also undergone a dramatic increase from a maximum of 14 to 18 allowed in each lab.
According to Dr. Jones-Wilson, the biochemistry professor this semester, “With additional students there will be instrument bottlenecks and simple issues moving around the lab.”
She added, “I have increased the time allotted to some experiments because of this – which means in Biochemistry I have had to delete and/or change some of the content.”
These increased class sizes have raised some concern across the board among many faculty and students on campus.
Due to the class size, for example, all tests in Biochemistry this semester have changed to a multiple choice format.
But, according to Welsh, she’s the one who’s “working for students.”
So, with biochemistry classes packed to the rafters and the sound of music dying across campus, we await Marcia Welsh’s lastest tweet.
Raging Chicken Press will continue to report on PASSHE’s austerity plans as they emerge.