Braidon Beard reporter
In the midst of staff layoffs, reductions, and retirees, the chemistry and physics departments are undergoing a shift in leadership with Bobby Winters, associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, serving as acting chair for both departments.
Peter Dvornic, former chair of the department of chemistry, will no longer be serving the department in this capacity, leaving the position vacant.
“The previous chair was not continuing as chair and a new chair was needed,” Winters said. “As all current members of the department of chemistry are needed for their teaching, research, and other responsibilities, bringing in a full-time administrator as an acting chair was the best solution available at this time.”
Winters said he was the best choice to fill the chem department chair vacancy until a permanent replacement can be found in order to ensure minimal class disruption.
“Students are benefited by having a full complement of full-time chemistry teachers teaching the full range of courses, while a professional administrator temporarily fills in administratively,” Winters said.
Although the changes in the chemistry and physics departments’ leadership are not a direct result of recent employment adjustments across campus, they do coincide with spending cuts the university is making to help alleviate financial strain resultant of limited state funding and recent drops in enrollment.
“… We’re just kind of restoring cuts that have happened in the past. It’s not as much as we’d like nor as much as we need to sustain the university in the long-term, but it is certainly a step in a very positive direction,” Douglas Ball, chief financial officer and vice president for administration, said.
While layoffs and reductions in various classified staff positions were implemented to limit spending, the budget is still tight and enrollment has not been ideal, and Ball said the university is also looking for opportunities to increase revenue.
“So, one of the pressure points is that we have had some declines in enrollment in previous years. We have organizations such as the admissions team and the international programs and services team and recruiting techniques are being enhanced and modified in a way that designs things to be more positive for enrollment,” Ball said. “The other pressure point is the broader revenue that the university gets outside of tuition. These could be grants or activities that generate revenue. We are trying to identify and develop those activities to generate as much revenue as possible.”
The Kansas Board of Regents (KBOR) approved a tuition increase Wednesday that will also help boost revenue, despite being the lowest tuition increase in 19 years.
According to a press release, full-time in-state undergraduate student tuition will increase by $73 per semester and in-state graduate student tuition will increase by $84 per semester.
“We’re doing everything we can to remove cost as a barrier to a college education. Today’s action ensures Pittsburg State remains one of the most affordable in the nation,” PSU president Steve Scott said, according to the press release issued Wednesday, June 20.
Another piece of good news for the university is a small increase in state funding.
“There are some significant updates that have happened in recent weeks and some that we are keeping our eyes on,” Ball said. “As the most recent legislative session came to an end, the most significant news was a restoration of part of a cut from a couple of years ago. That represents an additional $600,000 of money that Pittsburg State gets compared to last year.”
Various other departments across campus are also experiencing various changes in employment and leadership as the university continues dealing with budgetary challenges.
Cynthia Allen, chair of the communication department, said that the department has several vacancies that they are filling with current faculty until permanent replacements can be found.
“Right now, we have three tenure-earning faculty positions open. Two of them are being filled by full time-temporary people who don’t necessarily have the same skillsets. One of them, we have hanging in the balance,” Allen said. “We are trying to fill the courses, the specialty courses, that those people taught with adjuncts for the time being. We are very fortunate that our adjunct instructors come from this department. They’ve all gone through our courses, all studied under the people who retired or left, so we are able to keep a continuity of skills and training for students. Everyone who is teaching currently still has their source person to go back to.”