The Unprecedented Decision by Fresno Pacific University: Am I Next?

On Nov. 9, 2023, Dr. Andre Stephens, president of Fresno Pacific University, sent an email to the Fresno Pacific community outlining critical changes.

“Dear Students, 

I am writing to tell you about changes we are undertaking to position Fresno Pacific University for future success. These changes are aimed at enhancing your ability as FPU students to thrive under our care.  

As reported earlier this year, the university projected an unsustainable financial deficit due to declining enrollment revenue and an increasing and unbalanced cost structure. Rather than allowing this budget gap to grow or place additional cost burden on you and your families, we are taking the necessary steps to reshape our services, operations, and specific academic programs.  

Under the Board of Trustees’ oversight, today we are announcing the following measures to renew the area of operations within academic affairs beginning in January 2024. These decisions were based on criteria developed in consultation with a committee led by Interim Provost Dr. Sherri Hughes and was comprised of deans, faculty and staff.  

As we move forward, we will no longer be enrolling students into the 16 programs listed below. These 16 programs comprise 24 areas of study and enroll 3% of our total current student body.”

Students already enrolled in affected undergraduate programs such as arts administration, biblical studies, chemistry, mathematics, philosophy, political science, pre-law, Spanish, and theater, as well as graduate programs like sports administration and theology, will be able to complete their degrees. But as of January, these programs will no longer be enrolling students.

These changes also meant layoffs, affecting 11 of 109 full-time faculty members, including Professor Fran Friesen, who served as an Assistant Professor of English until her position ended in June 2024.

But oddly enough, Friesen expressed that the news did not come as a surprise to her. 

She said she woke up that morning with the intuition she was going to receive bad news. “At the moment that I saw it, I wasn’t so shocked, but certainly it was a shock overall.”

There was no talk at all about the changes that were going to happen at the beginning of the school year, so the news came as a shock to everyone in the community.

Friesen has been part of the community for a long time. She was a student at FPU, her parents went to FPU, and she met her husband at FPU.

“We have a long history of this place,” Friesen said.

After reminiscing about what the past held, she continued to express her views on the news. “Things just keep shifting around here,” she said. She brought up the minor changes the humanities department had last year, and now this news, with even more drastic changes.  

For me, the changes were not as drastic as other students since I am an English major. However, when I received the news that Professor Friesen was being let go, I couldn’t believe it since I thought the English department would not be affected. I became worried that perhaps my major was going to be next on the list.

With the current changes happening not only at Fresno Pacific, but institutions all over the country, I started to worry that incoming college students are not going to get the same opportunities as years past.

Friesen said there were practical reasons why this change is happening. “There is a reality that we have lost like a thousand students in the last two or three years,” she said. “There is a serious problem.”

The institution decided it was time for a major change.

Friesen said Fresno Pacific leadership is going to be a challenge. She said there needs to be clarity within their decisions, and only time will tell if dropping so many departments will benefit the institution.

She continued and said Fresno Pacific’s decision will be like a domino effect. “Everybody is struggling a bit with all this because we are a community,” she said. “If one person is affected, then everybody is affected.”

This will be an adjustment period for the community, but I am certain we will overcome this season of uncertainty for many.

For times like these, Matthew Henry said it best, “After a storm comes a calm.”

Judith Flores Mora (she/her/hers)

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