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Penn State faculty say buyouts are causing confusion, with a third of staff opting in at some campuses

Old Main, Penn State's administrative building on the University Park campus
Emily Reddy / WPSU
Old Main, Penn State's administrative building on the University Park campus

About a third of Penn State staff who qualified opted in to the university’s voluntary buyout program at some campuses, raising concerns among faculty about the impact open positions and changing duties could have on the upcoming fall semester.

The number of employees participating in Penn State’s buyout program varies widely by campus. According to information presented during a Faculty Senate meeting Tuesday, Wilkes-Barre had the highest percentage with 38% of staff opting in. At Penn State Altoona, it was 15%.

In all cases, a higher percentage of staff are participating than faculty and administrators. At DuBois, for example, only 3% of faculty and academic administrators opted in.

A snapshot of participation rates in Penn State's buyout offer or VSIP, Voluntary Separation Incentive Program, for many employees at the Commonwealth Campuses, as presented at the Faculty Senate meeting on July 9, 2024.
Penn State
A snapshot of participation rates in Penn State's buyout offer or VSIP, Voluntary Separation Incentive Program, for many employees at the Commonwealth Campuses, as presented at the Faculty Senate meeting on July 9, 2024.

Those percentages are based on the total number of faculty and staff at the campuses, not on the number who were eligible for the buyout, according to information presented at the meeting.

University administrators said some of the positions that are now open are being backfilled. And, they said, there are people in place to handle services like finance and IT.

Agnès Kim, a faculty senator from Penn State Scranton, said it was good to hear about the planning going on, but, she said, for them it’s “complete chaos.”

“I do want to highlight the fact that, at least on my campus, we have no notion of how things are going to work," Kim said.

Margo DelliCarpini, vice president for the Commonwealth Campuses, said the changes are a large undertaking.

“There is never anything that is without bumps in the road, but we’re really working very hard to minimize those bumps and not have gaps in services," she said.

The university had offered the voluntary buyouts to full-time, non-unionized staff and tenured and tenure-line faculty at its Commonwealth Campuses. According to the university, 383 employees or 21% of those who were eligible opted in to the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program or VSIP.

The university has pointed to declining enrollment at most of the campuses over time, and is implementing budget cuts and changing to regional leadership for many campuses.

Anne Danahy