MSU-Moorhead to cut programs — but says Slate criticism is off

We’ve got faculty input (Bjoertvedt via Wikimedia Commons)

Minnesota State University – Moorhead officials are taking issue with a Slate article that says the campus, as well as University of the District of Columbia, are gutting academics to solve budget problems:

Soon these regional public universities may have no departments of English, physics, or history—nor a host of other programs often associated with “college,” including political science (MSUM), philosophy (MSUM), computer science (MSUM), and even economics (UDC).

The article is referring to Moorhead’s attempts to close a $5 million budget shortfall.

Campus officials have identified 18 programs that could face the largest cuts.

Faculty union leader Ted Gracyk says the administration is looking at the cost and enrollment trends for those programs, as well as their role at the university:

“We can expect that there will be some faculty eliminated due to the budget problem. But we would expect that very few programs would be lost. We expect perhaps one graduate program and some of the smaller, least popular programs to be eliminated.”

Among those on the list are theater arts, philosophy and American multicultural studies. (You can see a list here in an article by The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead.

President Edna Mora Szymanski said years of declining enrollment and state funding caused the shortfall.

She said some programs have faced larger enrollment drops than others.

“We have to be very, very careful that we’re not deploying tuition resources in places where very few students are taking courses.”

Gracyk says faculty members expect to learn Dec. 5 what the cuts will be.

Meanwhile, MSU-Moorhead spokesman David Wahlberg wrote me about the Slate article:

A reasonable person reading this would assume that faculty have not been involved in this process. That is false. We have been engaged all Fall Semester through a contractually defined process call of Meet and Confer where these conversations occur.  Further, faculty were involved in defining the criteria used in defining the initial evaluation criteria.  A reasonable person might also conclude that the only budget relief taken is reductions in faculty numbers. Certainly there is a more direct correlation between the number of students being served and the number of faculty need to teach the classes, but we have also reduced operating budgets, and we have reduced administrative costs (we have the leanest administrative and administrative support structure among our peers). Finally, we have worked for months to avoid dealing with this difficult issue in divisive terms.

Gracyk also said that given that faculty helped come up with the measuring system, he expects administrators to make some “intelligent decisions” in the face of a bad situation.