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Recalibration Process Upsets Many

Sara Lee | Staff Writer | 01/26/2011

The impact of BSU’s $5 million budget deficit became more evident at a faculty forum and another student forum held last Thursday.

Emotions ran high between administration and faculty as demonstrated by two professors, not to be named, who walked down the aisle of Hagg Sauer 100 during the 10 a.m. faculty forum, holding signs declaring “BAD DATA” and “VISIONARY OR MERCENARY” in protest to the cuts being made. Two public safety officers were also present at the forum.

“We’re short-changing many people here. What are we going to tell them? ‘Sorry, your program was eliminated,’” expressed a Modern Language professor during the forum.

In retort, President Richard Hanson stated that “all I’ve done is think about the individual.” Hanson later admitted that “a lot of operational details have yet to be worked out. A lot.

Four programs have been eliminated all together, two at BSU and two at NTC, including Art History, Environmental Landscaping, Massage Therapy, and a fourth that has not yet been announced, but rumored to be Theatre. These cuts result in the elimination of six positions.

In addition, 33 other positions have been eliminated due to 18 other departments being downsized, such as Professional Education, Technological Studies and History. Juniors and seniors are guaranteed the opportunity to finish their majors, a “teach out,” although the same can’t be said for current freshmen and sophomores.

Some majors will turn into minors, and some programs will no longer be offered to incoming freshmen and transfer students. After the cuts go into effect, each department has to figure out curriculum changes and reconfigure their teaching loads, such as who will be teaching what and how the courses will be taught.

However, just like freshmen and sophomores, whether or not graduate students finish their programs is up in the air.

“The plans for graduate programs are in the hands of the departments and the deans,” said Hanson. But later at the 3 p.m. student forum he expressed the notion that graduate students would complete their degrees, either through specially arranged courses, or exceptions.

An English professor showed concern that BSU may be becoming a vocational school as opposed to an academic school, but Hanson denied the statement and said, “We’re not abandoning academic rigor. We’re not abandoning the liberal arts. We have too many students. We can’t afford that.” However, this was not well received by faculty members.

Troy Gilbertson of the BSU Faculty Association (BSUFA) asked Hanson as to why 70 percent of cuts so far have come from academics. Other faculty accused Hanson of “cut[ting] by opportunity,” implying that he’s using the budget crisis to execute ulterior motives.

The student forum seemed to be as emotionally taxing as the faculty one. The forum was intended to be “conversational,” but many in attendance felt budget decisions had already been solidified.

Hanson began by giving the crowd of about 250 students the same powerpoint presentation he gave faculty members earlier that day. In his presentation, he explained that BSU’s entire budget is roughly $51 million, and the $5 million deficit meant about 10 percent must be eliminated from the school’s expenses.

“The shortfall is attributable to the economic challenges the state of Minnesota faces, although it’s also attributable to…expense inflation, health insurance. You name it. Every thing is going up,” said Hanson.

He continued, saying that “it’s not just cutting…we’re actually adding things back at the same time because things have to change.” Programs such as Business and Mass Communications will soon add three more positions to their ranks, because expectations are that “those [will] be areas of growth and strength,” said Hanson.

An emphasis will also be placed on STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) programs because these are also “area’s of high growth,” said Hanson. Other unique programs offered at BSU, namely the Ojibwe language and restoration, will be kept because of it’s distinctiveness on this campus, with Hanson’s goal of becoming nationally distinctive.

As he’s explained in other forums, Hanson intends on creating a more focused university and making sure that BSU’s three big themes, sustainability, innovation, and distinction are involved in “reshaping” the University.

“Our recalibration is intensely focused on our students,” Hanson said, although many students and faculty disagree. “I suspect that there are going to be students who will say ‘Well, I don’t like what’s going on at BSU. I’ll tell ya that. I’m leaving.’ That’s your right, and some people will exercise that right,” acknowledged Hanson.

Hanson added, “I, for one, think the best days are ahead of us.”

The University intends on reserving a separate funds “to help cope with [a initial drop in enrollment] because that could really affect our budget,” said Hanson.

The fund, unlike the $5 million deficit, will be created by reallocating funds that are currently available in this year’s budget. Whereas the deficit will be permanent changes to the University’s budget.

“We are looking at setting a reserve aside that is approximately $1.0 to $1.2 million, the equivalent of revenue from approximately 200 full-time students,” later explained Bill Maki, Vice President of Finance and Administration.

Planning for a national money-raising campaign will start today.

“One thing we’re going to do,” explained Hanson, “is reassign an associate vice president to be in charge of strategic partnerships and creative relationships with off-campus entities like health care organizations, research organizations, and foundations because we need the money.”

A couple goals of his recalibration are to increase graduation percentages, since BSU’s current rate is 49 percent, and to “experiment with three-year baccalaureate programs” that will begin this coming fall, instead of the traditional four-year/120 credit program.

One of the best received questions of the student forum came from an Elementary Education student. In reference to which faculty members should be eliminated to alleviate the budget, the student asked, “Why can’t we cut off the fat that’s not working, that’s not doing it’s job?”

President Hanson responded by saying, “I wish it were as easy as it sounds…there are lots of reasons why that’s not possible. How do you identify incompetence? How do you deal with it?…I’ve never, in my 40 years of hiring, been able to figure out a good way to get what you ask done.”

This was just the beginning of an hour and a half long Q & A session. The entire Powerpoint presentation and video recording of the forum are available on BSU’s website: Home > Offices > President > Budget.