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September 29, 2023

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Administration’s reasons for faculty cuts still ambiguous

As an economist, I applaud the University’s ongoing effort to cut costs, improve efficiency and bring down tuition for students.

However, as one of the faculty members being let go and an alumnus of this institution, I am disheartened by the misplaced priorities of the administration and the path that the University seems to be heading down.

There is no doubt that the cost of higher education needs to be brought down — on that we can all agree. It is currently 12 times more expensive to acquire a four year college degree than it was 30 years ago.

However, how we go about lowering these costs matters tremendously.

University President Mary Ellen Mazey’s administration has already cut 72 of your faculty members last year and is on track to cut an additional 40 before the beginning of the next academic year.

This represents roughly a 12 percent reduction in faculty over the course of only two years, which the administration assures us will not increase class sizes dramatically, reduce the University’s course offerings nor diminish the integrity of the University experience.

Please explain to me how this is possible.

No really, please do.

We have heard these claims by the administration repeatedly, but have yet to actually hear anything about their plans to pull off such a Herculean task.

What I do know is that the student enrollment cap on my introductory economics courses increased more than 10 percent compared to last year alone.

One hint comes from the Accenture report itself, which recommends an increased adoption of online course offerings so as to bring us more in line with online course offerings nationally.

Where is the foresight in this? Does the administration honestly believe that students come to University to take online classes?

Why would they when they can receive arguably higher quality online instruction from world-renowned institutions such as Yale, Harvard and MIT for free?

No, I would argue that students come to the University for the high degree of student-faculty interaction sets us apart from other institutions.

At least that was the reason I chose to both attend and stay at the University – the economics faculty were incredibly approachable, knowledgeable and influential in my life.

By boosting enrollment and cutting faculty the administration seems oblivious to the inevitable erosion. This will have on the significant and impactful relationships that are forged at the University. These relationships, I would argue, are our greatest comparative advantage in the higher education marketplace.

I am also concerned with the methodology behind these cuts.

How exactly is the administration determining who gets cut and who doesn’t? In my personal experience the decision was based solely on seniority rather than any measure of performance or instructional ability.

Is it really in the best interest of our students to indiscriminately cut faculty without regard to their demonstrated teaching ability or past service contributions?

Finally, I must question whether faculty cuts are the appropriate way in which to bring down overall costs considering the fact that the total funds allotted for faculty salaries only amounted to a mere 23 percent of the University’s 2014 budget.

Are there not other less essential services that could be cut in the remaining 77 percent of the budget that do not threaten to degrade the quality of our University’s greatest asset, it’s dedicated faculty?

Bill Naldolsk

Instructor of Economics

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