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'My education, my voice': St. Norbert students protest faculty layoffs

Posted at 5:31 PM, Mar 27, 2024
and last updated 2024-03-27 18:31:12-04

DE PERE (NBC 26) — Declining enrollment at St. Norbert College over the past five years is causing the school to lay off faculty and staff. Some students protested Wednesday about the timing of the layoffs and selections of which professors to dismiss.

  • St. Norbert College laid off 12 faculty members this month in addition to the 35 faculty and staff members affected by layoffs in September, according to school spokesperson Mike Counter
  • The group of students that walked out Wednesday demanded transparency about the school's process and future plans
  • College leadership said the cuts are necessary to resolve a budget deficit
  • Video shows the protesters' signs and changes

(The following is a transcription of the full broadcast story)

Speaking out for their professors and staff members. We are at St. Norbert College, where a group of students walked out on Wednesday to demand transparency about layoffs.

"Whose money? Our money," students chanted. "Whose professors? Our professors! Whose college? Our college!"

St. Norbert announced 12 more faculty layoffs this month, after cutting 35 faculty and staff jobs late in 2023.

"Two of my philosophy professors have been cut," junior Ali Gedraitis said. "One of them was Dr. Edwards, who was just cut this week."

Gedraitis, Kylie Kapelke, and around 75 other St. Norbert students came out to demonstrate solidarity, demand transparency, and ask for accountability.

"We don't really know what's happening with our programs and with our degrees," Kapelke said, "and how many people are going to be left to teach our programs."

The college says the cuts are necessary to balance its budget and avoid raising tuition.

"These decisions are challenging, are difficult," said Joseph Webb, the vice president for student affairs. "But they're necessary to ensure that we're right-sizing the institution based off of the declining student enrollment, and to ensure that the college is here for decades to come to support students."

Webb says enrollment numbers are down 17% in the last five years.

"If you look at the number of faculty and staff we have compared to student ratio, it's a lot higher now than we've had five years ago," Webb said.

Many of the students protesting say they understand that part, but don't agree with the timing or choice of certain professors.

"We're all aware of the broad trends in higher education, but there was some real breakdown of communication at this college specifically, in terms of the type of education that students were guaranteed," sophomore Trentin Dauk said.

St. Norbert leadership did not indicate if there will be any additional layoffs cuts this year, or if there's a certain number of faculty or staff that they are looking for.