Students sound off about deficit impacts at Friday meeting with provost

More than 30 students attended a student budget forum on Friday at the Center for Business, where Provost Anne Blackhurst and other faculty answered student concerns regarding the current MSUM budget deficit, which will may result in faculty layoffs.

Students voiced their concerns and also some misinformation regarding lower enrollment numbers, loss of faculty, specific programs or classes being cut and the general reputation of MSUM in relation to these issues.

Kirsten Rokke, multicultural studies senior, went to the forum because she was under the belief that the humanities departments would suffer the most and hoped to hear about alternatives to faculty layoffs. “Professors have helped me so much in my time while I’m here and shaped me, who I am, not only in my education, but as a person,” she said. Rokke said she’s concerned that if certain faculty are laid off, others won’t have the same opportunities she has had.

For Kate Lucero, philosophy and women’s and gender studies senior, there was a bigger issue at hand. Lucero was also concerned that the humanities departments suffer the most because the college is beginning to put more money and focus toward the business field, which brings in more revenue.

“I really think that we need to be more progressive in our states and in our nation, through education,” Lucero said. “If they’re going to cut creativity from those academic fields … then we’re not going to be as progressive in our thinking as far as people over profit.”

Blackhurst laid these assumptions to rest saying, “I can’t imagine we would cut our philosophy or women’s and gender programs.” Enrollment numbers in specific majors as well as departmental classes would be taken into consideration before anything would be cut, and, “philosophy enrolls more students in its classes than many if not most of the programs we offer,” Blackhurst said.

Rokke was somewhat satisfied with the forum saying, “It was nice to get some closure on the rumor of specific departments being terminated and to understand that the professors in these interdisciplinary departments are not the first ones to go.” She did note, however, that she didn’t feel “well-informed” and thought another meeting was necessary.

Keeping students informed

Faculty members are beginning to realize that, while they don’t want to keep information from students, students aren’t being informed as the administration had hoped.

When 10 students were polled in the CMU on Saturday evening, eight were aware of some aspect of the budget deficit, mostly about the potential layoffs, while only two were aware of the forum hosted Friday. Those two were made aware of the forum through a student-run Facebook group called “Save Our School: 125 More Years,” not by the university itself.

Blackhurst sees this as a problem. “It’s possible for the university to think that it’s really doing a great job communicating with students and to still have large segments of the student body be uninformed about what’s happening,” she said.

In today’s world ruled by technology, Austen McFarren, a communication arts and literature  senior who also serves as MSUM’s Student Senate vice president, advises students to not only rely on social media but encourages them to get involved in the Student Senate “Meet and Confer” days. “During these meetings, Senate meets with administration and asks them questions regarding current university issues,” McFarren said.

Blackhurst called the issue of miscommunication a “two-way street,” saying the administration needs to stay innovative in their ways of communication, but students also need to take responsibility in understanding the university’s official ways of communication.

Seven of the 10 students polled Saturday evening were more concerned with tuition increases than faculty layoffs. Three of the 10 students polled said their main concern was teacher layoffs.

“I’m obviously not happy with that because as somebody who is an aspiring professor, that would be my job on the line,” said Ross Peterson, an English writing senior.

Some students genuinely care about administrative issues, but much of student body remains aloof.

“I think part of it is, it doesn’t seem important until it hits home,” Blackhurst said. For the more than 30 students who attended the forum on Friday, it had. The question that remains is, will that be enough to make a difference in how university administrators conduct business.

BY ALISON SMITH
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