Skip to Navigation
University of Pittsburgh
Print This Page Print this pages

May 17, 2012

UPB to oversee Titusville campus

UPB President LIvingston Alexander, left, will oversee the Titusville campus while UPT President William Shields will join the central administration as an associate vice provost.

UPB President Livingston Alexander, left, will oversee the Titusville campus while UPT President William Shields will join the central administration as an associate vice provost.

In an effort to cut costs and assess the viability of Pitt’s Titusville campus, the University has realigned UPT’s administration under Pitt-Bradford President Livingston Alexander and will centralize administrative functions for both campuses at UPB.

In the move, announced May 7, UPT President William Shields was named an associate vice provost and David Fitz, UPT vice president for academic affairs, was named interim UPT campus dean.

Fitz will be responsible for UPT’s day-to-day operations, reporting directly to Alexander.

Provost Patricia E. Beeson told Senate Council last week that the action was prompted in part by past Shieldscuts in state funding and uncertainty over whether more cuts are in Pitt’s future.

The state budget proposed in February by Gov. Tom Corbett would cut an additional 30 percent from Pitt’s appropriation; however, a bill introduced in the Senate as part of ongoing state budget negotiations would restore Pitt’s funding to its initial fiscal year 2012 levels. (See related story, this issue.)

Beeson said, “It was not exclusively the anticipated cuts. Right now we are still trying to adjust to the losses that we’ve experienced. The immediate step is to pull out some administrative costs to see if we can reduce the cost of operating [the UPT] campus relative to the revenues that it generates.”

Beeson told the University Times that declining enrollment at UPT also played a role in the decision.

The campus’s full-time equivalent (FTE) student headcount has been declining since it peaked at 501.6 in 2007, according to the Pitt Fact Book, falling more than 18 percent to 410.8 in fall 2011.

Beeson said, “The regional economy was particularly hard hit by the recession,” which in turn took its toll on UPT enrollments. “But the really big factor was the cut in the commonwealth appropriation,” she said. A cut of $67 million in one year “makes you look pretty carefully at everything that you do,” she said. “It’s made us review our areas of previous commitment.”

Beeson said based on the funding cut, enrollment and trends, “We really felt that we really needed to do something if we wanted to make the Titusville campus viable in the current economic environment.”

Faculty and staff reactions

Prior to the announcement of the changes through a press release, Beeson informed UPT faculty and staff during a May 7 campus visit. She was accompanied by Alexander, Fitz, Shields and David DeJong, vice provost for Academic Planning and Resources Management.

History and political science professor Richard Mulcahy, UPT’s representative to Senate Council, said that Beeson’s announcement came as a surprise to many. “It really disquieted a number of people,” he told the University Times. “Certainly people are concerned.”

Kathleen Plyler, UPT’s representative to the Staff Association Council, said, “At this time we do not know any details of what will happen with the administrative realignment between UPT and UPB. We are just waiting for more information.”

Alexander said he held a campus-wide meeting of Bradford faculty and staff to address their concerns. “Obviously we have had momentum on our campus and the faculty and staff want assurance that our engagement with Pitt-Titusville will not disrupt or slow it down,” he said, noting that while they desire their successes to continue, they also have expressed a commitment to making the realignment work for both campuses.

“They’re making the commitment to do all they can to assist,” Alexander said of the UPB faculty and staff.

“We have an abundance of hardworking, dedicated, creative, solutions-oriented people at Pitt-Bradford and we are willing to do all in our power to ensure Pitt-Titusville is strengthened and able to continue offering educational programming to students and others in that region.”

UPT’s concerns are more basic: “Does the University maintain its commitment to keeping the Titusville campus open?” Mulcahy asked administrators directly at the May 9 Senate Council meeting.

Beeson responded, “We are hopeful that by pulling out administrative costs that we will be able to continue to offer educational programs in Titusville. But part of what we’re doing is assessing the viability of the campus as we move forward.”

Chancellor Mark A. Nordenberg told Senate Council members that Pitt’s commitment to its four regional campuses “has been both visible and strong” as evidenced both by investments in the campuses’ facilities and in differential tuition for in-state students on those campuses. “But as I have been saying for the last year, to the extent that there are continued dramatic reductions to state support, our regional campuses are the most vulnerable of our academic units,” he said.

“By extracting administrative costs from the Titusville campus, and shifting some of those responsibilities to the existing team at Bradford, we believe that we have better positioned the Titusville campus to be viable as we move through this difficult funding period,” Nordenberg said.

In comments last week to the University Times, Beeson reiterated:

“We have no immediate plans to close the campus. We are hopeful that this administrative realignment will reduce the costs of operating the campus to the point where it is financially viable. But that’s something we’re going to have to assess after the administrative restructuring is done.

“We’re taking this step because we believe that it will put us in a position where we can continue to provide programs to the Titusville community,” Beeson said.

Administrative changes

Beeson said the timeframe for the interim UPT campus dean position is expected to be about a year, adding that the administration will first identify fully what the new structure will be at UPT. “Then I anticipate next year we would look to fill the top position there,” she told the University Times.

More immediately, Beeson said, Shields will assist Alexander and Fitz with the administrative transition, then move to new duties in the Office of the Provost within the next month. “He has a real perspective on the regional campuses that is valuable and we’d like to take advantage of that,” said Beeson, noting that Shields had been interim president at UPB before taking the helm at UPT in 2005.

The provost said she has been meeting regularly with the four regional campus presidents as a group to consider what can be done to advance the regional campuses.

“There’s a lot that could be done through collective action there,” she said. “We have a lot of ideas about how they might more effectively share resources, strengthen their programs, strengthen their individual identities. But we haven’t had anyone available who could focus on that. So that will be an important part of what [Shields] will do when he’s in my office.”

Beeson said one option being examined is the possibility of sharing more instructional resources across the campuses — either through distance education or sharing instructors — in order to offer a broader range of courses.

Restructuring plans

The realignment announcement has prompted a flurry of activity at Pitt-Bradford. Alexander said, “The pace has picked up here and there is a lot of interest in how this is going to play out,” adding that much of his time since the change was announced has been spent communicating with internal groups, including the UPB advisory board and campus faculty and staff.

Alexander has formed working groups in such areas as business affairs, academic affairs, student affairs and enrollment operations — including admissions and financial aid, academic support, student accounting and marketing — who will meet with their counterparts at UPT over the next several weeks.

“Their main purpose is to get to know and understand operations and personnel and for each group to get to know the other group and see how those processes take place at UPT.”

Alexander said he also would be traveling frequently to UPT to get to know the operations there. “We plan to proceed deliberately and understand the processes,” he said. “We’re not imposing a structure that doesn’t fit the nature of that.”

Alexander said he intends to develop a final list of recommendations for the provost, with input from the working groups, within the next month.

Beeson said she intends to move quickly to get Titusville’s new administrative structure in place and operating smoothly by the start of the fall term.

She said her decisions will be made with input from the UPB and UPT campuses and the Office of Human Resources, noting that HR representatives over the past year have been discussing with Titusville administrators ways to restructure some campus operations.

“We do want to make decisions quickly so people know what the new structure is going to be as soon as possible,” Beeson said.

Some of the immediate attention will focus on which UPT back-office business operations could be based in Bradford “with somebody on the ground in Titusville with the support of the people in Bradford.”

Beeson said, “We plan to look at what’s the structure that will work best and then move people into the positions.”

Staff reductions

Job cuts will be part of the restructuring, Beeson said. “Obviously, to reduce costs, we have to reduce the number of positions. We are hoping that a lot of that can happen through the VERP.”

According to John Kozar of Human Resources, 15 percent of the UPT staff and nearly 6 percent of the UPB staff are eligible for the early retirement offer.

The deadline for accepting the VERP offer is June 15.

Legislators react

State Rep. Brad Roae (R-6), whose district includes the UPT campus, was critical of the University’s move. “People are concerned when they see all the cuts happening at one campus,” he said, adding that cuts should be made proportionately.

“They should be spread across all branch campuses and the main Pitt campus,” he said.

Roae, a member of the House education committee, said, “The Titusville campus is a very small part of the overall Pitt budget but has a huge impact on the Crawford County economy,” noting that UPT is among the largest employers in that part of the county.

“The Titusville campus is a good campus. Students like it; the community likes it. They do a good job educating,” said Roae. “Obviously we want to see the campus remain a strong campus in the Pitt system. We want the campus to be there in the future.”

Roae, however, expressed doubt as to the feasibility of the state Senate’s budget proposal, which would restore some of the governor’s proposed cuts. “I don’t know if the Senate budget is doable. The money they say is there, isn’t really there,” he said. “Cuts in almost everything that’s government funded will have to be made.”

Rep. Martin Causer (R-67), whose district includes the UPB campus, said he’s had no feedback from constituents regarding the UPT-UPB administrative realignment, although he has heard from them on the larger issue of funding for higher education in the proposed budget.

A member of the House appropriations committee, Causer said he is working hard to restore funding. “I’m a strong supporter of the University and of the regional campuses that provide educational opportunities in rural areas like mine,” said Causer, who also is a Pitt alumnus and ex officio member of the UPB advisory board.

Causer called the Senate’s budget proposal a step in the right direction. “I do think making restoration for the state universities is very important,” he said, cautioning that the Senate proposal “probably is not the final product” and that more negotiations are likely before a final budget is agreed upon in Harrisburg.

—Kimberly K. Barlow

Leave a Reply