The Editorial Board
In a democracy, a mass exodus of government officials signals to the world that there is a problem in the system; in an educational institution, the signal is no different. With President Hanycz’s plan to leave La Salle for Xavier and one source’s confirmation that multiple other administrators are following suit, many might be wondering, “Why is everyone in the administration leaving La Salle? Is it money? Is it the Board of Trustees? Is it the pandemic?” No answer is overwhelmingly apparent. We can only say that — in the span of one semester — the president of the school and three of her executive cabinet members are leaving, and there are dangerous implications of this mass move. Ultimately, the administrative exodus is a scary sign for the University; it hints at a deeper problem within the University, in which either the resources are too low or the structure of the administration too flawed to create positive outcomes.
La Salle University struggles financially as a result of the coronavirus pandemic; this fact is a given in the world of higher education. However, La Salle has long been an institution akin to financial vulnerability, and that insecurity could have been a major factor in the administrators’ decision to leave the University. After all, in June, President Hanycz told The Inquirer that the University would face “a dire financial outlook” if students did not return to campus. Students, in fact, did not return to campus come fall, which brings one to the possible conclusion that such a dire financial outlook has arrived. Since these statements, the University has laid off 53 employees, cut salaries and hours for 48 others and eliminated 51 vacant staff positions. These decisions were made only in recent times. However, it is also important to note that, though there was a brief uptick in 2019, revenue and asset trends have been declining since 2015, according to Cause IQ. These declining trends have signaled deeper financial trouble for the University — trouble that may have been worrisome enough for administrators. If it can and did happen to 53 employees, it could one day happen to four administrators. Even with job security, these administrators could be receiving better offers elsewhere. Two of the departing administrators will assume roles at universities with much greater revenue; the other two will assume roles at private companies.
The departures could be a matter of finances, but they also could be a matter of results. One source speculated that there may be dissatisfaction with the administration among the Board of Trustees. If the Board is unhappy, its members may make a critical decision for the administration. It is interesting to note the recent creation of the executive vice presidency role, given that its objective is entirely outcome-based, focusing on La Salle’s market value and strategy. The resume for this position’s appointee details experience in stabilizing the budget for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. This hire indicates that the Board saw a greater need for strategy within the University; one could say that the creation of this role was a reaction to the pandemic, but the reality that the role was already filled in October of last year makes that conclusion less clear.
Is it plausible that all four administrators were simply “ready to make a move” in their careers at the same time? Plausible, but likely not. The evidence suggests that either money or work product motivated these moves. Even so, it may be true that the decisions of these administrators were unrelated. It may be true that the University could find a perfect fit in its hiring process. Yet, it is not about the past or the future. Presently, the reality that four administrators to leave La Salle at the same time is a bad optic for the University: if the higher-ups are jumping ship, are we to say that La Salle is sinking?
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