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Faculty members discuss impacts of UM budget cuts

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201 positions to be cut at UM (MTN News photo) 201 positions to be cut at UM (MTN News photo)
MISSOULA -

Many faculty members at the University of Montana fear for their jobs in the wake of an on-going budget crisis and 201 full-time positions are on the chopping block at UM - and no one quite knows where the cuts will be made yet.

Reporter Eric Clements spoke to several professors about how these cuts will impact the university.

Emotions and anxieties are running high amongst the staff at the University of Montana after president Royce Engstrom announced 201 full time jobs will be cut due to budgetary constraints.

"My colleagues and staff send us emails. They are cautious, they are afraid, they are very anxious. There's this weird climate of anxiety and insecurity," French professor Michel Valentin said.

That anxiety comes from an uncertainty about the future. No one knows exactly what jobs will be cut as not even tenured professor's positions are guaranteed. Valentin says staff morale is at an all-time low.

"Very bad. I've never seen so bad in 25 years."

Some professors say making widespread cuts isn't the right solution and that a strategic process for increasing enrollment should be implemented.

"We need a statewide recruiting program that not only works for the university in general but for specific units on campus," commented Dennis Swibold, with the UM School of Journalism, which is among the departments experiencing declining enrollment - and is therefore also facing cuts.

But Swibold says the journalism school is in a unique position. It's ranked as the ninth best college journalism program in the nation and it's always had relatively low enrollment.

"We've always been a small school, but our journalism students are - their reach is much greater than the size of the school," Swibold said.

Some faculty say these cuts have the potential to affect more than just campus.

"We estimate that for 3,000 lost students in enrollment, that costs our community somewhere between $100 and $150 million a year - ongoing, every year. That's 2% of our local gross domestic product," observed Doug Coffin with the UM School of Pharmacy.

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