The School of Professional Studies has let go of 10 full-time faculty members and is restructuring the Paul McGhee Division into a primarily associate degree granting institution, according to NYU Spokesperson John Beckman.
Beckman said that McGhee — a program within SPS that combines the liberal arts with professional studies — has traditionally served nontraditional, usually significantly older students.
“Over time, enrollment in McGhee has declined by 60 percent as the demographics of degree-seekers have changed and as people have sought different types of degrees, favoring more career-oriented degrees over liberal arts bachelor’s degrees,” Beckman said. “So, we are restructuring that one program to make it more oriented toward associate degrees, though we will still offer bachelor’s [degrees] for the appropriate students.”
Beckman said that though some SPS faculty members will be removed due to this change, SPS should still function as normal and that students currently pursuing degrees within McGhee will still be able to complete them.
“Regrettably, we are laying off 10 full-time faculty out of more than 100 full-time and 2,000 part-time faculty that are in SPS,” Beckman said. “This doesn’t affect our commitment to continue to offer bachelor’s degrees or master’s degrees overall in SPS. It doesn’t affect any other programs in SPS. It doesn’t affect any other schools of NYU — which has over 4,000 full-time faculty — or their programs.”
In a letter to students, SPS Dean Dennis Di Lorenzo said that as part of the school’s mission to be flexible and responsive to changes in the educational environment, McGhee will be renamed the SPS Division of Applied Undergraduate Studies. Di Lorenzo reiterated that this change is being made to reflect the changing profile of McGhee students, and that current McGhee students want different things out of their educations than McGhee students of 15 to 50 years ago.
“Our programs will be repositioned to reflect a clearer path to baccalaureate degree completion and introduce reduced-tuition associate’s degree programs with a renewed focus on applied practice and the professions — though the liberal arts will continue to be infused throughout the curriculum,” Di Lorenzo said.
Di Lorenzo said all current programs will continue under the new name. He also ensured that all current students will be able to complete their chosen course of study as planned.
Despite these reassurances, some SPS students are still unhappy with the new changes and how they are being executed. SPS junior Jimmy Krause, who said he found out about the situation from a professor who spoke to his class, addressed a letter to SPS students calling on them to contact administration and demand transparency.
“The treatment of our faculty in the name of global growth is abhorrent,” Krause said in the letter. “SPS is changing from an academic institution to an international corporate enterprise. It is time to ask at what cost? Tuition at SPS is too expensive to stand back and let the administration fire almost half of its experienced, dedicated faculty to replace them with cheaper instructors, or in some cases not replace them at all.”
In an email to WSN, Krause said that he hopes the faculty and programs will be reinstated, and that he believes there are better ways to go about phasing out programs. He also said that though he could not comment on behalf of the SPS faculty, from what he has seen there seems to be an air of uncertainty about the changes being made.
“I have personally taken classes with some of the affected faculty, and I feel that this is in no way performance based,” Krause said. “It seems [the faculty] wants to speak up, but those still employed might be hesitant to do so in the wake of what the administration has done. That is why I feel it is so important to organize as paying customers — because at this point we are no longer students — and demand we get what we were promised when we came to NYU.”
Even with these concerns from students, Beckman said that the university is devoted to accommodating the affected students and faculty as much as possible.
“We’re committed to making the liberal arts part of the applied programs we put in place,” Beckman said. “We are committed to making sure any student in the program can finish his or her degree. And we are giving generous severance to faculty who are being laid off in keeping with our commitment that they are treated with respect and dignity in the terms of their departure.”
Email Natasha Roy at [email protected]