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Rally planned for Monday at Penn State Altoona to protest program and faculty cuts

The campus gate at Penn State Altoona
Min Xian
Penn State Altoona is cutting some faculty and programs in 2022.

Pointing to declining enrollment, Penn State Altoona is cutting faculty positions and a half-dozen programs, but some in the community do not like the downsizing is being handled and plan to hold a rally on the campus today.

A memo Penn State Altoona Chancellor Lori Bechtel-Wherry sent to faculty this month said the campus has seen its enrollment drop 23% in the past five years. Penn State Altoona has to cut its budget by $4.7 million over two years.

The memo said along with the eight faculty contracts not being renewed, another eight faculty searches were canceled or postponed.

The administration plans to cut programs including Integrative Arts, Dance, Math and Science.

Caitlin Osborne, an adjunct faculty in dance at Penn State Altoona who had taught there full-time for 12 years, said she’s concerned about how the decisions were made and the impact of the program cuts, particularly to the integrative arts. She said all of the full-time dance faculty are gone, 75% of theater faculty and half the music faculty.

The integrative arts program is a magnet for students of color and for the LBGTQ community, Osborne said. Even students who aren’t majoring in that program may take classes or participate.

“It’s a really important space for those students," she said. "I think that’s really worth considering. We have this mission, this supposed mission, to foster equity and diversity, and I think cutting this program runs counter to that.”

Osborne said she and others are hoping to at least be able to discuss the planned cuts.

“Could we just have a conversation instead of just seeing this process that seemed to lack transparency and has come on high in this dramatic fashion," she said.

A dance-in followed by a rally is planned for noon Monday on the Altoona Campus.

Bechtel-Wherry's memo said the programs slated to be cut are under a "Dean's Review" status, and the "formal University consultation process to close these programs will begin in the near future."

Other Penn State campuses have also seen declining enrollment. The university did not respond to a request for comment on whether they’re making similar faculty and program cuts at those campuses.

A screen shot of enrollment by campus from Penn State's Office of Planning, Assessment and Institutional Research
A screen shot of enrollment by campus from Penn State's Office of Planning, Assessment and Institutional Research

Anne Danahy has been a reporter at WPSU since fall 2017. Before crossing over to radio, she was a reporter at the Centre Daily Times in State College, Pennsylvania, and she worked in communications at Penn State. She is married with cats.