May 1, 2017: Pacific Union College (PUC), the Adventist institution in northern California, is restructuring in an attempt to compensate for a recent financial crunch.
Jennifer Tyner from PUC’s public relations department said that “Over the last six years, the Adventist Church’s 13 institutes of higher education in North America have seen a combined 15 percent loss in enrollment,” suggesting that a decrease in enrollment is the root cause of the problem.
PUC has put together a task force to deal with this budget problem, says Tyner, that will receive input from students, faculty and staff, and alumni.
Tyner was optimistic about the changes, calling the restructure, “rightsizing” rather than downsizing. She noted that there were “adjustments to staffing levels” and “department reorganizations and improved systems to absorb the downsizing.” She emphasized that the staffing adjustments and department reorganizations referred to administration and not academic departments.
No academic departments were currently being affected. “We still offer over 70 degrees and emphases. In fact, soon we will be announcing new programs beginning this fall,” says Tyner.
Shantel Smith, associate chaplain at PUC, recently announced that her position was being eliminated. In a Facebook post she wrote, “As some of you may already know, the financial situation we are facing here at PUC is dire. As a of result of reduction force, my position along with many others has been eliminated. My last day as the Assistant Chaplain here at PUC is June 30, 2017.” Shantel is one of several staff members who are facing the elimination of a position at PUC.
Since PUC is in the process of searching for a new president, part of the restructuring process is on hold awaiting a new leader’s vision for PUC. The previous president, Dr. Heather Knight, resigned unexpectedly in the middle of the school year last year amid controversy regarding academic freedom and serious budget concerns.
Tyner would not comment about whether enrollment and alumni donations are being affected by academic freedom controversies of the past several years. Several faculty resigned, at least one was terminated, and some have protested the crackdown on instructors’ freedom to teach views that do not align perfectly with the Adventist Church’s views.