BY MEREDITH WATHNE
A proposal to combat the recent budget deficit went into effect March 1. The plan reduces MSUM’s salary budget by nearly $3 million by 2016, provides a new seniority roster and merges several departments.
Amidst the salary budget reduction are three layoffs, one in each of the history, community health and special education graduate rosters.
“The layoff notices were issued now, so the affected faculty will be able to take advantage of their contractual rights to claim any openings at other MnSCU institutions,” said Provost Anne Blackhurst. “The layoffs will not take effect until the end of the 2014-15 academic year, and we are hopeful that we will be able to rescind the layoffs well before then.”
During the fall semester, 19 professors took the Board Early Separation Incentive (BESI); with another two accepting the second-round Early Separation Incentive offer (ESI). These buyouts were on top of five other retirements and the reduction of 17 fixed-term faculty and other adjuncts, which saves the school just over $2.1 million in salary expenses.
Four new departments officially took form on March 1.
In the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, six different departments were condensed to two. History, languages and cultures, American multicultural studies and women’s and gender studies have combined to make the department of history, language, critical race and women’s studies. The second new department, the department of economics, law and politics, came from the merge of economics, political science and paralegal.
“I think (faculty) see opportunities in these mergers,” said Randy Cagle, interim dean of the College of Humanities and Social Sciences.
Cagle also said that the new economics, law and politics department provides potential for a pre-law major as early as the fall of 2015.
The other two new departments are in the College of Arts, Media and Communication. Mass communications and communications studies is now known as the school of communications and journalism, and the music and theatre departments are combining, but did not have a new name chosen at the time of publication.
Colan (C.T.) Hanson, the current chair of mass communications, was elected to serve as the chair of the school of communications and journalism, with his term ending in June 2017, is looking forward to the possibilities the merger could bring.
“I personally believe there will be opportunities to innovate and provide students with some new programming options because of the merger,” Hanson said. “I’m a pro-growth person and believe that the best way forward is to grow our way out of a crisis is through creative problem solving and innovation.”
Hanson also said that a key benefit is a more coherent identity in the discipline of communication on campus and he sees no specific downfalls as long as mutual respect continues throughout the programs.
The other new departments, music and theatre, the department of economics, law and politics, and the department of history, language, critical race and women’s studies will have their current chairs serve as co-chairs until new ones are elected. Elections will take place before the end of the academic year, with new chairs in place by June.
Though there have been a few negative comments, the administration and department heads are keeping a positive outlook in the changes.
“Many faculty are actually excited about the opportunities for synergy and collaboration,” Blackhurst said. “The primary benefits are administrative efficiencies and new opportunities to share faculty, programs, resources and expertise.”