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Wheelock Merger Results in Layoffs

University offers severance and job-hunting help


Boston University and Wheelock College notified Wheelock’s faculty and staff this week of the impact that the upcoming merger of the two institutions will have on jobs and of the steps under way to assist those whose positions will be lost as a result of the consolidation. The merger, announced last October, followed Wheelock’s determination that its declining financial position would not allow it to remain an independent, stand-alone institution and the best way to preserve its name and mission was to forge a strategic partnership with another institution of higher education. The merger, which becomes effective June 1, 2018, will combine Wheelock with BU’s School of Education and will establish Boston University’s Wheelock College of Education and Human Development (WCEHD).

Diane Tucker, BU vice president, human resources, says University administrators carefully considered the structure of the consolidated schools and administrative departments and conducted a position-by-position review of Wheelock’s workforce. The goal, says Tucker, was to look at every regular full- and part-time employee of Wheelock to consider what role they might assume at BU after June 1, 2018, or if no appropriate role exists, to offer severance and outplacement support for those whose jobs are eliminated. That review, she says, found that the merger will result in the layoff of 72 Wheelock staff members and 39 full- and part-time faculty members. The University has offered jobs to 87 Wheelock faculty and staff, which includes, as announced last October, all tenured faculty members. Since the merger announcement, BU has also hired six Wheelock employees into various departments as a result of outreach that encouraged Wheelock employees to apply for vacancies at BU for which they might be qualified.

“We have been anticipating this point even before the merger was announced,” says David Chard, Wheelock president. “Losing talented staff and faculty is very difficult, particularly in a tight-knit, mission-driven community like Wheelock. However, as a result of this merger, Boston University has offered us a unique opportunity to retain the academic knowledge and expertise of Wheelock’s tenured faculty and the capacity of many of our high-quality staff members that will ensure the success of the new Wheelock College of Education and Human Development.”

Tucker echoes Chard’s sentiments. “This is the very difficult and painful part of the merger,” she says. “It’s hard for people to lose jobs through no fault of their own. We are committed to helping impacted employees with their job search.”

Tucker says BU has offered jobs to Wheelock staff whose work does not overlap with current BU operations. These include Wheelock’s entire facilities crew, who will be needed to maintain Wheelock’s buildings and grounds. Employees who have been offered jobs at BU will be credited for their service at Wheelock, she says, which will reduce or eliminate the two-year waiting period required for participating in BU’s retirement plan.

Julie Sandell, BU associate provost for faculty affairs, says all 32 tenured Wheelock faculty members have been offered appointments, as have 11 of its nontenured faculty. Most of these faculty positions are at WCEHD, and some are at BU’s College of Arts & Sciences, School of Social Work, and College of Fine Arts.

“We understand this is a very painful situation for the people at Wheelock,” Sandell says. “People at BU have a lot of empathy for the difficulties that this situation has presented. They have had a very cohesive community and a very special mission for a long time. We can’t bring everyone to Boston University, and we know that’s really hard.”

Tucker says all full-time and part-time faculty, and full-time and part-time staff, who are being laid off will receive severance pay and outplacement services arranged by the University. Those services, the nature of which varies with an employee’s role at Wheelock, will include workshops on how to do job searches, on résumé writing, and on job interviewing skills, as well as information about how to apply for unemployment insurance.

A BU Human Resources staffer will be assigned to each laid-off staff member who is interested in finding a job at the University to help them navigate BU’s job application process and better understand the culture and operation of the University’s schools and colleges. “It’s not going to be a job placement,” Tucker says, “but rather help in determining whether and where their skills might be transferable to BU.”

The University will sponsor a job fair for Wheelock employees on March 21, where representatives of local higher education institutions will discuss their available positions.

Finding the best fit for faculty

The merger agreement specifies that BU offer full-time appointments to Wheelock’s tenured faculty, and Sandell says the University worked closely with Chard and his administrators to “determine the best fit for those faculty at BU. The Wheelock faculty met individually with deans or associate deans at BU to talk about their interests, their expertise, and where they had the most natural affinity and would be best placed.

“That allowed our deans to get a much better idea of all of the skills and experience that the Wheelock faculty would bring to us,” she says. Wheelock’s leadership was involved in the partner search, and the leaders prioritized positions for tenured faculty and preserving the college’s name and mission in any merger.

While Wheelock’s emphasis on training teachers means that most of its faculty would be appropriate for WCEHD, other Wheelock faculty “bring real experience in the scholarship of education to their disciplines” at other BU schools, Sandell says.

She points to Wheelock’s mathematics coordinator—who earned a PhD in mathemetics at MIT and has spent more than 20 years at Wheelock College developing creative ways to make math accessible and inclusive for students and future math educators. “She has chosen to go into the department of mathematics and statistics at CAS,” Sandell says. “And she’s bringing really interesting expertise and ideas about how mathematics can be taught to undergraduates and interact with the Hub,” BU’s new general education requirement.

“The placement of faculty in our current units is being driven by faculty preferences and the University’s educational mission and needs,” Sandell says. “The WCEHD transition team, which includes representation from Wheelock and BU, has also identified several Wheelock programs as valuable new additions for Boston University.”

For example, she says, WCEHD will continue two Wheelock programs: Child Life and Family Centered Care and Youth Justice and Advocacy.

Easing the transition for students

The University is also working to ease the transition for Wheelock students who continue at BU. Those students have until April 1 to inform the University that they plan to attend BU, either to matriculate in existing BU programs, continue in those Wheelock programs that will be incorporated into BU, or in some cases, enroll in a transitional program that will complete their Wheelock course of study.

BU will honor the tuition rates and financial aid packages of current Wheelock students, although their tuition may rise with inflation, says Kenneth Elmore (SED’87), associate provost and dean of students. “We want to make the transition as smooth as possible,” he says.

“We made arrangements for current Wheelock students to participate in the Boston University room selection process, which goes through April,” Elmore adds. “They will not be charged the deposit to get into that process.” Wheelock students who come to BU may apply to be resident assistants as well.

In January and February, BU sponsored information days for Wheelock undergraduates and graduate students, and will present two undergraduate orientation sessions, as it does for all incoming students: one this summer for transfer students, and one just before the fall semester starts.

The University also is retaining the Wheelock Family Theatre and is hiring seven employees who work there. The theater has offered professional, family-oriented stage shows, theater classes, and workshops for almost four decades and is regarded as one of the region’s finest family theaters.

Visit the BU & Wheelock College Merger website for more details about the integration of Wheelock facilities and programs into Boston University, including specific information for students transitioning to BU. 


7 Comments on Wheelock Merger Results in Layoffs

  • Ann Deveney on 03.15.2018 at 4:44 pm

    At any point has there been a conversation about the Wheelock Supervisors who are currently supporting our under grad and graduate students?

  • Catherine O'Connor on 03.15.2018 at 8:30 pm

    Many of the incoming Wheelock faculty, both tenured and contract faculty, will be taking on some supervision of undergraduate and graduate students. However, we will not know until April 1st how many students will actually commit to coming to BU. We plan to assess the need for additional supervisors after we learn the number of students at each grade (rising sophomores through graduate students) planning to matriculate at BU.

  • Francie on 03.16.2018 at 10:05 am

    Will the Wheelock campus remain where it is now? Or will BU at some point combine the two schools into one building on the BU campus?

    • Art Jahnke, BU Today on 03.16.2018 at 1:42 pm

      Initially, WCEHD will remain on Wheelock’s Boston and Brookline campuses as well as on Boston University’s Charles River Campus. Long-term decisions about the location of WCEHD and the use of the Wheelock campus will be made at a later date.

  • Dave on 03.16.2018 at 11:45 am

    As an unaffected alum, it certainly appears that the process was well thought thru and done with significant compassion for the affected individuals.
    I’ve worked on many mergers and layoffs in my career, and respect and compassion for the individual are always the key to performing these tasks and allowing people to leave with their heads held high.


  • Alex on 03.19.2018 at 9:18 pm

    I really appreciate all the work that’s being done to ensure the transition is smooth for current Wheelock faculty, staff, and students but those of us currently in SED have had very little information on how the merger will affect our classes. We know our programs will remain intact, but it would be nice to know if any of our classes will take place on the Wheelock campus and if our school is moving there completely. It would have been nice to know before the housing process took place, but it’s too late for that now! I’m just hoping as the merger nears that the administrators start passing information on to those of us in SED currently.

  • Lillith Avalon on 03.23.2018 at 4:13 pm

    I am curious if the BU shuttle bus is going to have a Wheelock stop?
    And relatedly, is the bus still stopping at Symphony now that we are no longer at the Huntington?

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