Though Manhattan College President Milo Riverso has not previously shared hard data on the financial rationale for firings and other changes at the college, he did so in detail in an email addressed to faculty and staff on Monday. The message acknowledged how difficult recent changes have been for him, the board of trustees and the faculty and staff.
Riverso stated that part of his reasoning in sending the email was “to share some background leading to recent data-driven decisions.”
The email cites a 30 percent decline in student enrollment with no accompanying decline in operating costs, which created a budget deficit. “This imbalance has led to annual deficits for each of the last five years,” Riverso wrote, “and we are projected to have another deficit this year. Combined, those deficits will exceed $50 million.”
According to a June 30, 2022, report by auditor KPMG on the college’s intercollegiate athletics department obtained by The Press, sports generated a $12.5 million deficit in 2021. In 2020, the deficit was $14 million, and in 2019 it was $16 million, according to the report.
The college has 19 Division 1 sports teams, including baseball, basketball, lacrosse, soccer and track and field teams. Historically the track and field team has been its strongest, regularly collecting wins indoors and outdoors since 1973.
In 2022 the school reported revenue for athletics of $2.4 million, and expenses of $14 million, a deficit of nearly $12 million. Sports-dedicated endowments helped somewhat, reducing the loss by $4.2 million.
The sport that consistently costs the college school the most money is basketball. Despite the fact that basketball team brings in the most revenue, it is less than $200,000 annually, with expenses surpassing $2.3 million.
Some members of the faculty have said they were previously told by Chief Financial Officer James Perrino that the budget deficit was $14 million, but the school has yet to release financial evidence to support that claim.
Riverso’s email stated that the alternative to Riverso’s intention to “right-size the faculty and staff to develop a sustainable financial model” would have been to increase tuition, “to such an extent, however, that it would severely compromise our enrollment and our important Lasallian Catholic mission.”
That last claim was recently question by some faculty, given the decision to cut the college’s religious studies major.
Riverso finished his email by stating that he remains optimistic about the college and “will engage the community on further developments.” For months, however, professors have been complaining about the lack of transparency and community engagement when it came to making drastic changes such as firing tenured professors, dismantling entire programs and merging schools.
In addition to Riverso’s email, the Council for Faculty Affairs and the Faculty Welfare Community received a letter from Stephen Squeri, chairman of the college’s board of trustees chair, in response to the recent faculty vote of no confidence in Riverso.
“While we recognize the impact of the necessary actions taken by President Riverso and his team have had on our valued faculty,” Squeri’s statement reads, “the Board of Trustees unanimously stands by those decisions which were taken to ensure the long-term financial stability of the College and its ability to pursue its mission for generations of students to come.”
Squeri wrote that all plans were intended by the board run to “put the College on solid financial footing and focus our resources on the areas that are delivering the greatest value for our students and the entire College community.”
He also stated that “engagement with our faculty, staff and students remain essential throughout this process.”
Previously, both Jeff Horn and Marlene Gottlieb, tenured but terminated faculty members for over 15 years, told The Press the school did not communicate with them.
Gottlieb was the chair of the modern language and literature department, which has been decimated by the changes that Riverso has implemented. The department was reduced from six professors to three, and of the eight languages once offered, Spanish only remains.
“We don’t see the figures,” Gottlieb said of the college’s recent changes. “They don’t give us any of the background information.”