MISSOULA – University of Montana President Seth Bodnar is encouraging UM faculty, staff and students to dive into the details of recommendations to save $10 million off future university budgets and to make suggestions.
Bodnar says the preliminary recommended cuts unveiled Tuesday are the beginning of a "discussion" to resolve spending problems, but also realign the university to better serve future students.
"We have endeavored to identify the ways in which we can keep our offerings to students, and give our students the best, highest quality education and the most offerings, the most options as possible while addressing our budget issues," Bodnar said.
"And the recommendations that will follow are the result of a deep analysis. We recognize that that analysis is not perfect and that’s why this is the beginning of a discussion," he added.
Bodnar took the podium at Tuesday’s Senate Faculty to explain the philosophy behind the cuts and changes proposed by the University Planning Committee — a package which will eliminate or consolidate programs and course offerings, and result in more layoffs over the next three years.
The objective is to stop the flow of red ink, what he calls a "structural deficit" of spending, which could grow to 10-million dollars in three years if left unchecked.
But it’s more than just cuts. The preliminary recommendations are the "action items" for a comprehensive review of UM’s mission statement, and how to re-align the university to attract students looking for more specific degrees geared to future careers.
In order to do that, he encouraged the campus community to review the adjustments as if they were "starting from scratch", envisioning what UM can become, to "plant a flag" so UM is a destination for students looking for specific skills.
Bodnar is also encouraging everyone to review the recommendations, keeping in mind they "aren’t perfect", and are looking at reductions by areas and not by individuals.
"These numbers are approximate. Those numbers align in areas. They are not associated with individuals. And, third, we expect a very large proportion of these to occur over the next three years through attrition, and natural departures," Bodnar said.
Bodnar is repeating his earlier assertion that the financial problems are "not a crisis", but are "not sustainable in the long run" and need to be dealt with in a broader way than the intermittent cuts of the past two years.
Here’s a breakdown of the top five departments impacted by the proposed UM cuts:
- The College of Humanities would lose 16½ Full-Time-Equivalent (FTE) positions The proposal would discontinue majors in French, German, Spanish, Russian, Classics and Area studies by consolidating into two major areas — Asian Studies and European Studies.
- The college of Sciences would lose 8 FTE positions and would create a Division of Physical Sciences and a Division of Mathematical Sciences, Economical and Computational Sciences.
- The College of Visual and Performing Arts would lose 6 FTE positions and combine the School of Art" and "Media Arts."
- The Interdisciplinary program would also lose 6 FTE positions. The proposal would discontinue the Global Humanities and Religions program.
- The Social Sciences program would stand to lose 4 FTE positions and create a Division of Social Sciences that includes Anthropology, Sociology and Linguistics — as well as integrate the School of Journalism with Communications Studies.
School officials stress that development of this preliminary plan will continue in the coming weeks and months. UM will be holding a series of presentations and listening sessions to discuss the proposals in the coming days. Comment is also being accepted online.
- April 17, 3:00 PM, in the Music Hall Recital: President Bodnar will present the preliminary recommendations for UM’s future at a special session of Faculty Senate.
- April 20, 4:00 PM, in SS 352: President Bodnar and members of the UPC will host a campus forum for all employees to provide an overview of the preliminary recommendations.
- April 24 & 26, 3:00 PM, in SS 352: Faculty Senate will host listening sessions open to all faculty and staff.