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Awaiting Merger Approval, Atlantic Union College Faculty to Receive Pink Slips

While Atlantic Union College (AUC) and Washington Adventist University (WAU) await approval for their proposed merger from the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, the faculty and staff at Atlantic Union College now find themselves without jobs.

The Worcester Telegram and Gazette reported July 25, that the delay in the merger meant that the faculty and staff were to be laid off on July 31, the day the college’s accreditation with the New England Association of Schools and Colleges expired and AUC legally stopped operating.

To merge the two institutions, approval was needed not only from the constituents of both the Columbia Union and the Atlantic Union Conferences, but also from federal, state, regional and church accrediting agencies. The plan was to establish a branch campus of WAU in South Lancaster, Massachusetts where AUC is located.

On July 14, WAU announced that the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education was still processing the application and had not yet given approval. As a result the South Lancaster campus would not be allowed to open. The AUC students were invited to attend WAU classes on the Takoma Park campus.

AUC President Norman Wendth told The Worcester Telegram and Gazette that all but one of the currently enrolled 450 students at AUC had found other colleges for the fall semester.

Much of the AUC staff was to be offered jobs with WAU at the satellite campus, with only 12 layoffs predicted. However, the plan is now on hold for at least nine months, the paper reported. So all faculty and staff were to receive pink slips. Wendth did not give a total number.

Severance packages were to be offered to the employees, and some were possibly to be offered positions at the Takoma Park campus.

If the state does not approve the merger, Wendth told the paper, “the college would close and the property, which includes several buildings and acreage on Main Street in South Lancaster, would revert back to the Adventist Church.”

On the WAU website, President Weymouth Spence is quoted saying, “We’re working through the process and are optimistic that we’ll be able to operate soon after permission is granted by the commonwealth. Moving this process forward keeps our commitment to serve the educational needs of students in 15 states in the MidAtlantic and Northeast United States and the islands of Bermuda.”

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