By Asia Renee and Lorel Durant
Friday’s meeting of Lincoln University’s Board of Trustees left many members of the campus community feeling frustrated.
The meeting, which was held in the board room of the International Cultural Center, addressed a number of topics, including enrollment numbers, planning and development, education policies and several other issues.
While the meeting addressed or highlighted several issues in detail — notably the formal recognition of Lincoln’s new nursing program, which will begin in the Fall — the board and President Robert Jennings did not give significant time to address the primary reason the room was overflowed with more than 100 people.
Jennings addressed for only two minutes his plans to outsource Physical Plant labor.
Individuals wishing to address the president and the board were also left disappointed. About an hour and 45 minutes into the meeting, the board called an executive session and asked attendees to leave. Individuals waiting to meet with Jennings and board members never got their chance to speak with them.
The experience left many people, including computer science major Shanta Hughes, very frustrated.
“It’s open to the public. We have concerns. We should have had a chance to speak with the president.”
The meeting, which was originally scheduled to take place on Saturday, drew a large crowd as a result of an email Jennings sent to faculty and staff.
The email, which was outlined in both The Daily Local News and The Lincolnian, announced plans to outsource most Physical Plant positions, notably housekeeping and maintenance staff.
During the meeting, Jennings said that the workers would have a chance to keep their jobs, but would have to reapply for their positions with the company selected to outsource the work. They would receive, however, preferential treatment during the hiring process.
Following the board meeting, Joseph Aulisio, the union representative for maintenance and housekeeping staff, said the university may use Thompson Hospitalities, the company in charge of dining services, as the outsourcer.
The tension in the room was heightened by the lack of space.
More than 100 people showed up for the meeting, but the room only safely seats 65 people. Many spectators were forced to stand in the hallway.
During the meeting, R. Joanne Deboy, chair of Education Department, commented to the board that people couldn’t hear. The board tried to speak louder afterward.
“I don’t understand why they couldn’t move the meeting somewhere else,” said Paige Mitchell, a senior.
DeWayne Walker, the student government association president who sits on the board, was sympathetic to workers. But he said he understood the president’s logic.
“Im sad at the fact that maintenance is being outsourced,” Walker said. But it potentially saves the university 2 million during these trying times.”
The university’s financial woes was a major theme of the board meeting.
Jennings mentioned that 56 fewer students enrolled this semester, causing a loss in expected revenue.
His goal for next semester is 2,080 students to be enrolled but he will only accept students who have fully paid.
“We need to strengthen enrollment. Retention and recruitment are everyone’s business,” said Jennings.
He said the move to outsourcing would save about $2 million.
“We are moving expeditiously to remove a deficit” Jennings said.
In addition, Steve Stoute, a contractor with the Common Fund Institute, described the the university’s financial portfolio as “very disappointing.”
Not all the news from the meeting was negative, however.
The Board formally recognized Swing Phi Swing social fellowship for outstanding service and volunteer effort in the community. The members present were honored with a certificate and standing ovation.
Jennings also recognized Cheryl Thomas as the new interim vice president of institutional advancement and Lenetta Lee as the new director of Residence Life. In addition he recognized the efforts made by Nursing program president Shelley Johnson. The nursing program has been officially been approved by the Penn State Board of Nursing on January 24th. The department will begin its first semester this upcoming fall.