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Date Posted: Tue, July 21 2020, 3:12:52
Author: D
Subject: President's letter to Alumni







Dear Canisius College Alumni -

I want to share some important information about challenges and changes at Canisius College.

In the years I have served as president, I have attempted to initiate discussions on campus around the many challenges facing private higher education and their implications for Canisius. We have conducted strategic assessments and worked diligently to adopt creative, new approaches to improve the financial outlook for the college while increasing the college’s quality and value for our students and families.

In the Covid-19 pandemic, however, colleges and universities across the country now confront grave new financial threats, and Canisius College is no exception. Increased operating expenses, major hits to all forms of revenue, and declines in enrollment have left many schools with staggering deficits that threaten their very existence. As Canisius was announcing its budget moves last Friday, The New York Times reported on the severe challenges facing all of American higher education. Clearly, we are not alone.

The story reports, “This month, the University of Texas at San Antonio laid off 69 instructors, while the University of Michigan, Flint, last month eliminated more than 40 percent of the 300 lecturers who handle a majority of the teaching load on campus. Since May, Ohio University has had three rounds of layoffs, including more than 50 nonunionized faculty members.” Around the country, a similar picture emerges: a $1 billion deficit at the University of Michigan; $77 million at the University of Rochester; $100 million at Fordham; $55 million at Quinnipiac; $375 million at Johns Hopkins, and $31 million at Erie Community College here in Buffalo.

For Canisius, Covid-19 has exacerbated the college’s financial situation that has been stressed by major population declines and demographic shifts that have adversely impacted enrollment. We cannot afford to wait for the storm to pass and consequently, the college’s Board of Trustees directed me this summer to develop a college-wide restructuring plan, one that would help us achieve financial stability but also chart new strategic directions for the college.

At its June 25 meeting, the Board of Trustees adopted a budget for 2020-21 and directed the college’s senior leadership to make $12.3 million in adjustments as part of a plan to address an expected $20 million deficit. This plan leaves us with an operating deficit, but one that the Board feels we can manage from a cash flow standpoint. Knowing that some of the deficit is temporary, the Board approved a 7% draw from the scholarship endowment, 40% higher than in a typical year.

As part of this restructuring, there are reductions in academic programs, faculty positions, non-teaching personnel, the intercollegiate athletics program, and other operating expense lines. We will be outsourcing a portion of our facilities maintenance function. But, academic programs and personnel face a cut of $2.5 million, leaving $9.8 million to be absorbed in other areas. If we were to simply abandon any cuts in academic programs, we would need to generate another $1,500 from each of our undergraduate students to cover that shortfall.

Last week, we notified 71 staff members, including 51 full and part time administrative and support personnel and 20 facilities and maintenance staff that their positions were being eliminated. On the academic side, we are discontinuing majors in Classics, Creative and Performing Arts, Human Services, Physics, Religious Studies, Entrepreneurship, Urban Studies, European Studies, and International Business. There are reductions in Philosophy, History, Management, English and Chemistry, although the majors are being retained. Between 23 and 25 tenured and non-tenured faculty associated with these programs will see their positions eliminated.

Many of these changes were the result of low or significantly declining enrollment or overlap with other programs. For example, over the past six years, we have awarded an average of three Classics degrees per year; less than two in Religious Studies; fewer than 10 in Entrepreneurship; about four in Urban Studies; fewer than three in European Studies; about 10 in Human Services; and fewer than four in Philosophy. History has fallen from 27 degrees six years ago to 10, English has fallen from 20 to 13 (although Creative Writing adds about another 10 degrees).

Contrary to many of the sentiments expressed on social media, Canisius is not abandoning its commitment to the humanities. But these numbers require that we trim these programs. The elimination of the majors in Physics and Religious Studies does not mean that courses in these disciplines will no longer be taught at Canisius. Religious Studies will remain a part of the college’s core curriculum. We will continue to teach Philosophy, English and History. Our decisions are connected to long term enrollment trends and the need for the college to make strategic choices to be able to continue to support our signature academic programs.

While Canisius is increasing its focus on offering degrees and certificates that provide a pipeline to professional careers in high demand areas, this does not mean an abandonment of our commitment to our Jesuit identity, especially as that has been reflected in the undergraduate liberal arts and sciences core curriculum and the college’s Honors Program. But It does mean a rethinking of core requirements to streamline the curriculum and enable the college to offer a more consistent and coherent core experience to every undergraduate student. The goal of the core and the Honors Program remains the same: to provide every undergraduate with a diverse array of courses that promote critical thinking, oral and written communication skills, ethics, and an understanding of significant moral issues.

These moves will be accompanied by a restructuring of the academic division of the college. The School of Education and Human Services will be merged into the college of Arts & Sciences and there will be other moves to streamline and improve the departmental structure of the college.

These measures are painful to implement as we are losing valued colleagues at every level in the college and there will be pain for those who remain. The Board examined all options and there are no easy answers. I should stress that our response, however, involves more than just budget cutting. This involves building on our academic strengths, investing in emerging growth areas such as allied health, and meeting the needs of our increasingly diverse student population, all while maintaining our commitment to Canisius’ standards for academic excellence and our Catholic, Jesuit mission and identity. Our commitment to the liberal arts remains, but it must change as a result of the unprecedented challenges we face.

I appreciate your commitment to alma mater and your dedication to and support of our students. Thank you for the patience and dedication you have shown to Canisius throughout many seasons of changes and challenges. I share your concerns and frustrations and I remain committed to working with you to create a brighter future.

Very truly yours,





John J. Hurley
President

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Replies:

[> Re: President's letter to Alumni -- Go_Griffs, Tue, July 21 2020, 4:53:08

Honestly, this makes a ton of sense and as long as theology, philosophy and other classes that are part of the Jesuit tradition are part of the core curriculum, I'm ok with this.

Seems like we're getting more streamlined in order to reduce financial hits down the road and hopefully find some stability.

It's a tall order, but I do hope the school invests more in basketball, baseball and hockey given that those can be powerful recruiting and marketing tools.

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[> Re: President's letter to Alumni -- Let’s hope so, Tue, July 21 2020, 9:31:40

I do worry that we need more of a long term strategy. I haven’t seen a strategy since Cooke & Demske. St. Peter Canisius pray for us.

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[> [> Re: President's letter to Alumni -- Money..., Tue, July 21 2020, 11:48:51

It's easy to publish plans when you have the money to spend on capital projects, etc.

If you want to see these things, you need more donors and more money.

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[> [> Re: President's letter to Alumni -- Cager, Tue, July 21 2020, 12:26:17

CC made a huge mistake back in the Dempsey era when the US birth rate was on the decline, and the school failed to see that health related programs coupled with an aging population would soon be in demand. D'Youville, and Daemen, are now benefiting , and CC is in a fix. When I was going to NU they had a whole building dedicated to the Nursing Proram, but for some reason the program was dumped. I personally know of Canisius students that after getting a degree, went back to school for Physical Therapy and Physician Ass't. It's a good thing that John Hurley is in charge during this chaiotic time. By the way, I really hope that there will be a basketball season. Go Griffs!!!

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[> Re: President's letter to Alumni -- BfloGriff, Tue, July 21 2020, 12:17:58

I wonder if John read my rant(and rave) yesterday. I feel better today after his letter, knowing our Jesuit id. will be protected and the core curriculum and humanities will remain. My niece (an honors student entering her senior year at one of our top high schools and ultimately destined for an M.D. or PhD degree IMO) is interested in CC because one of her best friends' older sister graduated as a a Griff and enjoyed her time there . I was feeling my advice to her was going to be to take it off her list. But now I hope she'll be coming to lunch and we'll watch the virtual Open House and then take a walk around the campus. CC hasn't had a Demske or Cooke style fund raising drive in years. That will likely be the only way to raise the $35M (maybe $40M now) needed to finish Science Hall IMO. Fr. Cooke raised $95M, I recall. The College needs to pull herself together and that should be part of the process. I also like the idea of focusing on Basketball, Hockey and Baseball as a sports basis for growing the student body. So Let's go Griffs and get it done.

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[> Re: President's letter to Alumni -- Linwood Larry, Tue, July 21 2020, 13:19:29

For decades I've read how important the Arts are to colleges, yet when the going gets tough they are among the first programs cut.

Come on - which is it?! If a future college education becomes all about how you're going to get a job on the medical campus or in some tech field, then I'm sorry - we are going to live in a very, very narrow world.

No thanks.

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[> Re: President's letter to Alumni -- D, Wed, July 22 2020, 2:35:30

This paragraph speaks volumes

"Many of these changes were the result of low or significantly declining enrollment or overlap with other programs. For example, over the past six years, we have awarded an average of three Classics degrees per year; less than two in Religious Studies; fewer than 10 in Entrepreneurship; about four in Urban Studies; fewer than three in European Studies; about 10 in Human Services; and fewer than four in Philosophy. History has fallen from 27 degrees six years ago to 10, English has fallen from 20 to 13 (although Creative Writing adds about another 10 degrees)."

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[> Re: President's letter to Alumni -- CanMan, Wed, July 22 2020, 12:00:24

I see the school is starting a PA program. Why not go big and start a DO Medical School? You want donors, you want to save the school stop thinking small.

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[> [> Re: President's letter to Alumni -- Because you can't just make up a medical school..., Thu, July 23 2020, 3:40:24

For starters, you need state approval, accreditation, you would nuke the relationship you have with UB (and it would impact other programs such as law), such a move might also impact Canisius' Carnegie classification and throw us at the bottom rung of a higher-level.

Canisius only needs one thing right now: DONORS. If you're a donor, keep doing what you are doing and try to give more. If you aren't, now is the perfect time to start.

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[> Re: President's letter to Alumni -- Amen!, Wed, July 22 2020, 16:49:36

The school needs to think bigger. Stop living in the past.

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