University makes cuts to Theology Department



Maggie Keane

The Theology Department has decided to cut classes from its roster for the Spring 2016 semester, leaving many part-time employees without a prayer.

The Department let go of 15 part-time faculty and staff members, but retained nine adjuncts, including four staff members, administrators and full-time faculty from other programs. 

In an email to the discharged faculty and staff, the Department Chair, Peter Spitaler, explained that current enrollment projections called for fewer classes and therefore fewer teachers.

Although the Department is offering fewer classes next semester, overall enrollment has not changed. The number of students registering for religious courses has remained consistent, but students do not take the same courses in the same semesters.

“Enrollment patterns are not always predictable,” Spitaler said. “Students do not choose the same sequence of courses, making scheduling the right number of courses equally difficult to predict. We are trying to meet the demand for our courses in a more efficient way.”

Part-time Professor Labhras Mac Gabhann was disappointed to hear that he had been let go. Mac Gabhann received a bachelor’s degree and two graduate degrees from the University.

‘“I have had a wonderful time here at Villanova,” Mac Gabhann said. “Having the opportunity to give back to our community as a teacher was especially meaningful for me.”

Mac Gabhann wasn’t surprised by the lay-offs. Before receiving Spitaler’s email, he had heard that the Theology Department was seeking more full-time employees in preparation for the new doctoral program in Theology. 

The new program will open in the Fall 2016 semester. It will offer five areas of concentration, including biblical theology, systematic theology, historical theology, Christian ethics and Christian spirituality. 

The Department expects its demand for part-time faculty to increase as the new PhD program gains momentum. Starting in the Fall 2017 semester, the Department will pull full-time faculty members from undergraduate courses to teach graduate courses and hire part-time faculty members to take their place.

In his email, Spitaler told the discharged faculty and staff that the Department would welcome them back, if the opportunity arises. But the current situation is likely to last for a few semesters.

Despite being let go, Mac Gabhann remains enthusiastic about teaching and expressed interest in returning to the University.

Eric Fedio 19’ was one of Mac Gabhann’s students. 

“He was very in-tuned with his students,” Fedio said. “He understands that we are taking theology only as a requirement. All of his topics are tailored to young adults. It’s rare to have professor who can teach in that manner and he will be missed.”