Speech pathology faculty prepare for May 2014 department closure

Next semester will be the speech-language pathology department’s last at Geneseo. The closing of the program started in fall 2010, when Geneseo faced a budget shortfall of $7.2 million, losing around 40 percent of its state funding.

The administration made an executive decision to close some programs in order to rebuild others, according to Interim President Carol Long.

Long said, at the time, the departments in question were beginning to lose strength across the campus. While choosing to cut these departments wasn’t an easy decision, it was part of a much broader effort to aid the students and faculty.

The administration tried to be as collaborative as possible with faculty in making these decisions. It worked with the Strategic Planning Group and the Budget Priorities Committee. Both of these are campus-wide groups that include representation from faculty, staff and students, according to Long.

“We provided comparative information on unidentified departments on quality, cost, enrollment, retention, graduation rate … all the stuff you look at when making a decision like this,” she said. “From this, we got in conversation with faculty about criteria they would like us to look at when making this decision.”

It was this information that led to the decision to close the speech-language pathology department, along with the computer science and studio art departments.

“Nobody wanted to do this. None of these three departments are departments anyone would have chosen to close if we had our druthers,” Long said.

Due to the discontinuation of these programs, those in charge of the decision helped the departments’ faculty pave paths for their future. The administration aided them in job searches, granted phased retirement plans, which allow professors to teach fewer courses than previous years at a salary higher than adjunct pay, and offered some the option to remain working at Geneseo in other departments.

“We closed about $2 million on the side of these decisions. The other $5.2 million we closed through other means, taking staff reductions elsewhere, through economies in energy efficiency and other kinds of choices,” she said.

Using the money saved due to these cuts, Geneseo hired some temporary full-time professors last year in order to balance the school through the transition. In the 2013-2014 school year, the college began to hire faculty to the tenure line, according to Long.

Multiple professors in the speech-language pathology department declined to be interviewed.

“It’s upsetting that such a great program was discontinued and will end after this semester,” speech-language pathology major senior Rebecca Lodi said. “The program gave back to members of the community with its speech and language clinic and is a great profession to be associated with.”

Long said that the program has been successful and transformative.

“If you speak with people whose lives have been so much improved by the work of the program, not only our students but people in the community, it’s a tremendous loss,” she said. “Again, this isn’t anything we would have chosen to do without real strategic challenges.”