Budget issues send adjuncts packing
by Kelsey Ketterling
Photojournalism professor Chris Walker’s second year at MSUM will also be his last.
“I can’t begin to describe how warmly I’ve been recieved here,” Walker said. “I just love it here. The faculty are more cordial than anywhere else I’ve been. The students are maybe a little less apt than one place I was, but they make up for that in being sincere.”
MSUM is the fourth university in six years that Walker has taught at. If he moves this summer, it will be his ninth move in 18 years.
“I feel like an army brat,” Walker said. “I’m just 40 years too old to be an army brat.”
Walker is not the only professor at MSUM that could be leaving at the end of this semester.
Due to the revenue gap, many departments are reducing their spending, which includes cutting adjuncts and fixed-term employees, Provost and Senior Vice President of Academic Affairs Joseph Bessie said.
MnSCU is currently behind for three reasons: national enrollment is down, Minnesota’s population decreased 15-20 years ago and North Dakota has a $15,000 per year grant for residents who pursue higher education in-state, Walker said.
“Those three things have kind of added up for us, and here (at MSUM) we are feeling that pressure and doing what we can to resolve it,” he said. “Unfortunately, I’m on the resolving end.”
Departments, particularly general education courses and majors, “have had a lot of pressure to be very tactical in the way they schedule classes” in order to meet student needs, Bessie said.
“If there were more students that would mean it would be possible to hire more people as needed — if we (had) more revenue,” Bessie said.
These spending cuts won’t affect a student’s ability to graduate in a timely fashion, Bessie said, but it could reduce one’s class choices.
“There will, no doubt, be a few shortcomings, I suspect, but they’re not going to be as major as a lot of people feel they will,” Walker said.
Both Walker and Bessie mentioned the biggest change for students is registering for classes, because some courses could only be offered annually, or every other year, and class choices are limited.
School of Communication and Journalism department chair Colan “C.T.” Hanson said, “The loss of our fixed-term faculty and adjuncts has put us in a very challenging situation, in terms of being able to fulfill the curricula needs of our students. We are trying to be as creative and as resourceful as possible to continue to meet the needs of our majors and minors.”
Problems in faculty reduction for the communications and journalism department started in spring 2014 when five faculty members were lost due to retirements and buyouts, Hanson said.
“The three fixed-term faculty we are losing this coming year because of budget reductions, were our stop-gap measures for some of the faculty who retired in 2014,” he said, adding that the department now has to “scramble to get along without (their) temporary replacements.”
“Compensating for the loss of our faculty in photojournalism, visual communication, and advertising are going to be our biggest challenges in the immediate future,” he said.
Hanson said his department has its plans in place for fall semester and hopes things will look up from there.
“We’ll have a better sense of where we are at in addressing the challenges once we have a more complete picture of enrollments for fall semester,” Hanson said. “Hopefully, we’ll see a bit of sunlight ahead of us.”