Faculty Association considers cuts

The university’s challenges and how they’re being handled are a couple of topics some SIUC faculty have said they would like to do something about.

Union members discussed the budget cuts proposed to campus colleges as well as changes to academic programs across campus at Wednesday night’s Faculty Association. Although some faculty voiced concerns of feeling pressured to make decisions regarding how departments’ budgets should be cut, Chancellor Rita Cheng said she thinks the faculty’s opinions are important to the campus’ changes.

Budget cuts

Holly Hurlburt, a professor of history, relayed to faculty that some budget reduction issues have been brought up at recent Faculty Senate meetings.

According to the Faculty Senate’s October meeting minutes, different campus departments have been asked to cover upcoming salary increases, and the chancellor’s budget committee was working to establish a rubric based on college and department enrollment performances to handle further budget difficulties caused by the decline in enrollment.

“One of the concerns that has been raised is certainly a lack in clarity in how these numbers are adding up,” she said.

During a later senate meeting, Hurlburt said the chancellor identified a formula that would be used to assess college cuts. Each college would be assigned a mathematical score, 70 percent of which would be based on its generated credit hours and the other 30 percent to be based on the college’s recruited new students.

Cheng said the 70/30 formula was developed by the planning and budget advisory committee. She said it aims to measure the amount of instructional efforts colleges put into their curriculums.

Once the score was calculated, Hurlburt said, some colleges would receive greater cuts than others. However, Hurlburt said some faculty members are concerned about how the budget cuts will take place.

“Some people who have looked closely at the administration’s budget numbers question whether these numbers add up, or how they add up,” she said.

Another concern Hurlburt said she’s heard faculty voice as a result of the proposed cuts is that the basis of budget reductions will cause a comparison of enrollment success at different colleges.

“What we get is pitting college against college,” she said. “And this is creating, I’m afraid, a kind of poisonous atmosphere where we’re going to be focusing more on competing with one another than doing the job we’re supposed to do, which is helping to educate students.”

Cheng said she doesn’t think the different colleges’ cuts will cause a rift between them. Rather, she said she hopes deans and department chairs involve faculty in budget cut discussions before they are decided.

When enrollment is down in a college, it should receive a deeper cut than others where enrollment is up because that college would have fewer students to cater to, Cheng said.

“I think we have to be realistic,” she said. “Our revenue has to follow enrollment.”

Program changes

Faculty Association President Rachel Stocking spoke to attendees about changes in departments across campus. Stocking said there have been instances where sections of classes have been consolidated, which could affect faculty workloads.

Article 9 of the Faculty Association contract states that proposed program changes are supposed to be reviewed by the union, the affected faculty and other university governing bodies. The issue, Stocking said, is that not all program changes trigger Article 9 at an early stage, so some faculty are not learning about program changes until they have already been decided.

Stocking said the program-changing process sometimes happens when a committee formed out of the provost’s office looks for redundancies or other possible changes with departments and then those programs are reviewed.

She said faculty need to stay informed on what changes are made to have a say in them because the process doesn’t immediately involve the union.

“We have been trying to be very vigilant about monitoring how these initiatives are proceeding and when they rise to the point of triggering Article 9, but we really need to encourage faculty in the departments to be on the lookout for initiatives that will ultimately result in program changes,” she said.

Cheng said a lot of program changes are the department chairs’ responsibilities. Then, she said, it undergoes evaluation by the Faculty Senate undergraduate program evaluating committee before going to the provost and chancellor.

Cheng said every program is subject to review, and the reviews of different programs should be done on a rotating basis.

She said in addition to providing input on program changes, faculty should recommend what programs need improvements in order to compete with other universities.

“I am confident the deans and chairs are asking the faculty about these issues,” she said.

 

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