Marylhurst faculty challenge decision to close university
An unnamed group of Marylhurst faculty members released a "Statement of the Faculty" last week, objecting to the decision by the university's board of trustees to close.
Marylhurst officials announced May 17 that the 125-year-old university would be shutting down later this year because of declining enrollment and dwindling finances. But in the wake of that announcement, faculty members are privately questioning the decision.
In emails to OPB on Friday, an anonymous faculty member said the group was concerned about "retaliation for speaking to media."
"We, a core group of concerned faculty, challenge the decision by the Board of Trustees to close Marylhurst University," said the statement, which OPB verified with other faculty. "We believe alternate paths forward exist that can serve our current and future students."
The faculty members argued university leaders had not "considered all options" prior to announcing the decision to close down later this year. Several faculty members met with the board of trustees on May 16 and offered a brief statement of how they could work together on ways to avoid closing the university.
Among the faculty suggestions was a request to explore how to operate a smaller Marylhurst with a narrower educational mission.
"Might we reconsider the viability of integrating liberal arts-based education and professional studies in fewer degrees, connecting these and creating a unique value proposition that starts with a small number of students and positions us for future growth
and innovation?" the fac-
ulty's statement asked, pushing for a "revised academic structure."
Board of Trustees chair-elect Chip Terhune spoke of previous attempts to scale back the university in an interview with OPB on Thursday, after the closure announcement. Terhune noted the university's "rare" mix of "very, very small class sizes, highly personalized instruction and, quite frankly, a large breadth of degree offerings."
Terhune said that combination was "a tremendously expensive proposition to offer." He said the board struggled to make that "more sustainable" without compromising Marylhurst's values and standards.
"It became clear to us that we weren't able to make enough change fast enough," Terhune explained.
Faculty members, however, questioned the university's defenses of the closure in their Friday email.
"The narrative put forth by (Marylhurst president) Melody Rose misrepresents both the decisions that led up to this moment and the capacity of the organization to continue to serve students with a smaller administrative structure," the faculty argued.
In the one-page statement to the university's board on May 16, the faculty suggested working on a plan for a smaller, 500-student university.
"We see this as an opportunity to reconnect with our mission and ask how we can most effectively support the board's work of keeping Marylhurst open and able to serve our students," the faculty statement said.
In a brief response late Friday, board members defended the decision against the faculty criticism.
"The board considered every possible alternative, including the faculty's suggestions, and concluded the only viable course of action was the one we took," the board said.
OPB is a news partner of The Review.