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Students and Faculty Speak Out About Budget and Transparency Issues

By Benjamin Hunton; Managing Editor
On January 31, 2016

Students and Faculty Speak Out About Budget and Transparency Issues

Benjamin Hunton
Managing Editor
bh1010@plymouth.edu

On Monday, Nov. 30, PlymouthState University faculty and administration met to discuss the finances of the university and to talk about strategic initiatives that are happening on and around the campus. Although there was much discussed at the meeting having to due with PSU’s financial situation, some faculty left the meeting with more concerns and questions than they had coming in.

The meeting began with Stephen Taksar, vice president for finance and administration, displaying charts and speaking about the imbalance between the University’s spending and revenue. “It was pretty bleak for the most part,” said Scott Merrill, a teaching lecturer in philosophy and anthropology at PSU.

Although the finances and budget were the primary topic of conversation at the meeting, it wasn’t what some of the faculty left the meeting thinking about.

Merrill posed the question “what do you see as the role of adjuncts in the near future of Plymouth State?” In response, Plymouth State President Donald Birx spoke about the need to integrate the teaching lecturers into the community. “It wasn’t a straightforward answer, but it isn’t a straightforward problem either,” said Merrill. “But he seemed sympathetic. In the past he has said that it’s wrong the way adjuncts are paid and treated.”

After the meeting, rumors began to spread that word had gotten out from administration regarding faculty layoffs, which raised alarms for many adjuncts around campus. The primary concern came from some of the layoffs that had to be made last year due to a decline in number of students and the university. “Last year, was the third year of a decline in the number of students,” said Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Julie Bernier. “So we needed to reduce the number of courses we were offering, and we significantly cut back last year. But of course that makes sense. If you have fewer students, you have a need for fewer classes.”

According to Bernier, layoffs are not something that any faculty should be worried about at this point in time. “I don’t see any concern in that area at all,” said Bernier. “This year, we have our largest incoming class ever, we added more classes than the previous two years, next year we’re projecting another class the same size as the one we had this year…As we grow, we have to add both full time faculty, and we will continue to have the same or greater need for teaching lecturers, so I don’t have any inkling that we will be cutting back on the teaching lecturers.”

Bernier denied any sort of talk of layoffs at the Monday’s meeting. “There was no talk about lay offs at the meeting,” said Bernier. “In fact nobody brought up that point.”

Although faculty layoffs do not seem to be a foreseeable change in Plymouth State’s near future, there are other changes that can be expected to happen. “It is likely that there are some things that we’re going to do differently,” said Bernier. “Potentially reorganize, and probably decide some things we aren’t going to do in lieu of new things that we need to do for our students and for our future.”

The root of the confusion, according to Merrill, is communication. “We need to get a discussion going between the faculty and the administration and the student body, said Merrill.” “It seems to me that there’s a lot of miscommunication or no communication sometimes going on… there’s always this sort of ambiguity surrounding things…there’s definitely a lot of concerned people, and people walking around wondering if they’re going to have a job next year.”

Not only did there seem to be miscommunication between administration and faculty, but also some students feel that they are being left completely out of the loop. It should be mentioned that there are student representatives present at these meetings, however, there are some students who also feel that stronger communication between administration, faculty and students needs to grow when it comes to financial issues and questions of budgeting.

“I don't think the students are well informed,” said Jordan Shoubash, a senior professional communication major. “I know my personal group
of friends who are also students (including myself) have remained uninformed about these meetings until they have already concluded.”

Although Shoubash feels that being uninformed as far as financial matters go is a problem, he is also of the mindset that there is a limit on how much students could do if they had their voices heard. “This school is a business,” said Shoubash. “A business needs to be run by its CEO's (President) and its management (administration). The opinions of the students won't often run parallel to what is best for this schools longevity. But being informed is completely different! If everyone is informed, then transparency will enforce trust between students and the university.”

Other students, such a senior communication major David Benson, felt that their input would be very valuable when it came to financial matters, but only to an extent. “Student input would definitely be valuable since your contacting the people who help fund the school,” said Benson. “I'm not a faculty member or staff member, so while my opinion can be considered, it shouldn't be held in very high regard…If you get students thinking that they can run the school, you have the insanity that is ruining the University of Missouri and Yale University.”

Concerning potential layoffs, Shoubash is of the strong opinions that what needs to be done, needs to be done. “The school has to do what it thinks is best for the future. End of story,” said Shoubash.

Benson had more reserved feelings about the prospect of layoffs. “It depends on who they lay off…” said Benson. “I can say that there are some teachers here that are teaching classes that they shouldn't be teaching. Those teachers either need to be put in other classes or laid off, there aren't a lot of other options.”

According to Bernier, the university’s main concern at this point is to look towards what needs to be changed in the future. “Every institution needs to look at what things we are doing that are most important, and less important,” said Bernier. “And so we’ve been going through a process to analyze and review everything we do on campus, and that information will feed back to the campus to help us think about how we’re going to prioritize going forward.”

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