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Reorganization at Lincoln called "work in progress'

Reorganization at Lincoln called "work in progress'

December 16th, 2013 in News

The Lincoln University reorganization plan announced last month is a work-in-progress, President Kevin Rome said this past week.

Just before Thanksgiving, the school acknowledged it was terminating several vice president's jobs and reassigning some other employees to new or redesigned positions.

A week ago, we published the names of four vice president jobs that are gone, along with a director's post and one tutor's position.

Two of those vice presidents - Ann Harris and Benecia Williams - decided to retire.

And Theressa Ferguson, who was the vice president for Student Affairs, is remaining at LU as Dean of Students, at a reduced salary and reduced responsibilities.

"I won't comment on any particular individual," Rome said late Friday, in an e-mail. "Much consideration was given to every decision made."

Several people, either in anonymous calls to the newspaper after last week's story was published, or as online comments to the story, questioned Rome's wisdom in terminating the tutor's position and merging the Center for Academic Enrichment - where the tutorial services have been provided - into a new Academic Support Center being relocated to the Inman E. Page Library.

Again, Rome wouldn't comment on the factors involved with decisions affecting any individual employee.

But, he said in Friday's e-mail - which was a response to several questions we asked last week: "Decisions were made based on merging areas and protecting the academic core of the university. ...

"Decisions were made based on the needs of Lincoln University, its students and the future success of the new center."

Rome had said in an earlier interview that LU's financial situation was a driving force behind the reorganization effort.

He anticipates saving $670,863 in salaries and benefits from the six eliminated jobs, including the reductions for Ms. Ferguson, over the next year and a half.

But that's not enough to cover the anticipated budget shortfall.

"If we look at fall semester and anticipated spring semester projections the shortfall could be an

estimated $850,000," Rome said in Friday's e-mail. "This is only an estimate - so we will not know for sure until, possibly, February."

He also wants to have a better financial cushion for the future, but said last week - and previously - it's too early to determine what size cushion is needed.

"We must focus on the current shortfall" first, he said in Friday's e-mail.

In last week's story, Rome said enrollment declines are part of the issue.

"We're about 200 students less (this year) than we anticipated," Rome said a week ago, "which is a significant amount of money in our budget."

He acknowledged in an earlier interview that LU isn't the only college having enrollment issues.

"It may be down throughout the country as we look at some institutions," Rome explained, "but we're funded based on state appropriations and enrollment.

"And when we don't meet our enrollment, that is a direct impact on the budget. We really can't operate at a deficit."

LU's record enrollment is 4,101 - set more than 20 years ago.

Former President Carolyn Mahoney had set a goal of having 5,000 to 6,000 students each year, and Rome said last week that remains the goal.

Lincoln is taking steps to address the enrollment issue, hiring a service to help with "how we recruit, where we recruit and, probably, a better marketing of the institution," Rome said. "One of the reasons why that's important is, we don't have the infrastructure to really recruit at the level that we need to. We don't have the staff.

"When you look at companies that do that, that's what they specialize in. They have people who do the marketing, the brochures (and) the communications."

Inconsistent and often too-low state funding also has been an ongoing issue over the years.

And, Rome said, Lincoln is taking steps to get more money from outside sources - seeking more grants and gifts, and continuing the ages-old effort at most U.S. colleges and universities, of getting more alumni to provide more financial support.

"We're fortunate that our shortfall isn't millions of dollars," Rome said recently. "In the long run, Lincoln is going to be OK."