Letter by Interim President of Luther Seminary Discussing Staff Reductions, etc.
(A letter from Rick Foss
Interim President, Luther Seminary
Dated March 19, 2013)
This is a hard day at Luther Seminary, as we announce very difficult decisions. You may have already heard some of the news of staff reductions. In an effort to be clear and candid, I’d like to share the situation more fully in this letter. Let me start by acknowledging how painful it is to be saying goodbye to talented and faithful friends and colleagues.
In mid-October, it became clear that Luther Seminary was spending well beyond our means. When we investigated the situation, we found we were over-spending on an annual basis by several million dollars. Unfortunately, we were relying on loans from financial institutions, as well as from our endowment, to cover our expenses. While the money was being spent on excellent initiatives, including personnel, programs and innovative missional work, it was clear we could not sustain this rate of spending.
In the early part of 2013, we realized we need to reduce our annual operating expenses by at least $4 million. In addition, once we do that, we will need to make additional adjustments to begin paying back our loans and fund our deferred maintenance. In light of this stark financial reality, the administrative cabinet created a comprehensive plan to evaluate all program, faculty and staff expenses. As you know, there have been numerous discussions with faculty, staff and students to explore our options, as we address our immediate and long-term financial challenges.
In February, the Board instructed us to reduce the expenses for Fiscal Year 2014 (July 1, 2013-June 30, 2014) by at least $3 million. Yesterday the Board affirmed our recommendations for meeting that requirement. This means the following difficult decisions have been made.
Staff: We are making changes to 30 positions out of 125 staff positions. We notified 18 people today, in individual conversations, that their positions are being eliminated. As you can imagine, those were extremely difficult discussions. In addition, three people have decided to retire and nine open positions will not be filled. Many of these colleagues will be leaving around April 5, though others may be staying until the end of June. Each person was given a severance package, along with outplacement services. We will have time over the coming weeks to say goodbye to people whom we love and respect. Please keep them in your prayers as they begin this transitional time in their lives.
Faculty: Eight faculty members have announced their decisions to retire or take a new call by June 30, 2013. In total there are 44 faculty positions. Additional faculty members have declared their plans to retire in the following year. While we were aware of some of these retirements, it is still sobering to see so many gifted professors leave at the same time. As with the staff, we will have opportunities to express our appreciation to them in the coming months.
Programs: As previously announced, the Master of Sacred Music program will remain on hold. We will accompany the two remaining students as they complete their degrees. In the Ph.D. program, we will not admit new students for the next three years. During this time, we will continue to support our current Ph.D. students as usual. The faculty has committed to exploring new options for the Ph.D. program, seeking a model that continues to offer high-quality curriculum and is financially viable for the future. I will send out a more detailed letter about both programs within the next few days.
Other: We have also made the difficult decision, for financial reasons, to close Wee Care, our early childhood education program. It was originally opened to provide care for the children of our students, faculty and staff. Over time, the makeup has shifted and now the vast majority of children come from elsewhere in the area. Parents of Wee Care children have been notified today that the program is closing on June 30, 2013.
What then are we to say…
As we make these announcements, I am deeply aware of the sadness in our community. I wish things were different. I will never think of this day as a good day; it simply isn’t. There will be good days ahead, but this isn’t one of them.
I keep returning to the verses in Romans that have been my anchor these past months: “… The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words … We know that in all things God works for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose … What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? ... Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? ... No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” - Romans 8:26ff
May God’s blessings be with us all as we seek his guidance, comfort and peace.