Faculty: Wheeling Jesuit University to Remain Open ‘In Name Only’
WHEELING — The chairwoman of the Wheeling Jesuit University Faculty Council is one of 20 faculty members who will lose their jobs as the university cuts programs in an effort to remain open during the 2019-20 school year.
Eleven of the more than 30 current academic programs will be all that remain of the courses offered by the university. Jessica Wrobleski, faculty council chairwoman and associate professor of theology, said the university is cutting all philosophy and theology programs as well as all liberal arts programs as it struggles with financial difficulties.
“The initial announcement was that the university would remain open through the 2020 school year, but I think that should be recognized that it is in name only,” she said. “We know the Jesuits who taught at Wheeling Jesuit were let go, and that all the liberal arts majors have been cut. Insofar as the identity of the school as a Jesuit liberal arts college, it is that in name only at Wheeling Jesuit University.”
She added that all athletic programs offered by WJU will remain in place. In an email sent to students’ parents and alumni Thursday evening, President Michael P. Mihalyo Jr. said sports and other athletic programs remain important for the university’s future.
“Student-athletes make up a large percentage of our overall student body. And, these programs are critical components of the recruitment and retention strategy at WJU,” Mihalyo said.
Wrobleski, who was hired at WJU in 2011, said she and the other 19 employees who are losing their jobs will retain their positions as faculty members through August, until their contracts expire. At the announcement of the staffing cuts Thursday, she said, the faculty took the news as inevitable — but she noted it was still hard news to hear.
“It’s like when you lose a loved one, even if you know they’re really sick and you know they’re going to die, even expecting it, there’s nothing that quite prepares you for it,” Wrobleski said. “Basically, the Board of Trustees has declared financial exigency, and the board has decided to eliminate (our) department and … it will no longer exist in the fall.”
Students now enrolled at WJU will be offered assistance to complete their degrees, and Wrobleski said that seniors will be permitted to finish their schooling through the year. However, many courses that are being discontinued are core classes
“Seniors will still graduate, but of course they have to finish their courses for the semester, and we’re to finish out teaching them. Several courses I’m teaching this semester are a core class, an ethics and theology course, that’s a required course, but students normally take it their junior or senior year … “
Wrobleski said she doesn’t know what the university’s plan is to address the required class for students who have not yet taken it, but she speculated the school might hire an adjunct professor to teach the class.
When WJU announced its planned program cuts late Thursday, it stated that “current students in majors no longer offered in Fall 2019 will receive information on how to develop a plan of study that will lead to their degree.” Mihalyo added that “we will work with every student to complete their education. While we hope that completion will lead to a WJU degree, we will also assist those who wish to transfer to another institution.”
No additional details of plans to help individual students were provided.