SEMO cuts jobs, three majors

Friday, November 14, 2003
Don Dickerson, right, president of the board of regents at Southeast Missouri State University, made a point as University President Kenneth Dobbins listened Thursday evening at the University Center.

Southeast Missouri State University will cut operating costs by eliminating three academic programs, restructuring others, and trimming expenses in nonacademic areas including athletics.

The board of regents, with little comment on Thursday night, voted to eliminate degree programs in geography, sociology and geosciences and restructure others by June 2005.

The university will eliminate the men's golf team, saving $35,000. The athletics department will have to cut an additional $40,000 or find revenue equaling that amount. How that goal will be reached hasn't been decided.

School officials said the university plans to cut five to seven staff, 10 faculty members and seven graduate assistants over the next year and a half.

The university also plans to eliminate one faculty member each in geography, physics, philosophy, agriculture and economics, two faculty members in sociology, and three faculty members in geosciences.

Deter Jedan, chairman of the Foreign Language Department at Southeast Missouri State University, and French instructor Alice Strange followed an agenda attachment while listening to University Provost Jane Stephens discuss the academic program review with the university's board of regents Thursday evening. Jedan's department will lose one faculty position in geography.

An anxious crowd of about 150 faculty members and students crowded into the University Center Ballroom to listen to school officials outline the cuts.

Don Dickerson of Cape Girardeau, president of the board, said the regents had no choice but to cut programs.

Students, he said, have been saddled with major tuition increases in the past two years. "We just simply can't balance the budget on the backs of students anymore," Dickerson said.

The regents on two 6-0 votes approved over $1 million in academic and nonacademic cuts recommended by university President Dr. Ken Dobbins and approved an early retirement plan designed to encourage tenured faculty in departments targeted for cuts to retire rather than be fired.

In addition to the major cuts voted on by the regents, school officials said the Cape Girardeau school plans to save $150,000 by replacing some retiring professors with nontenure track instructors, and another $200,000 by cutting course offerings, increasing class sizes and rescheduling upper level courses.

That amounts to an estimated $1.38 million in savings, still short of the $1.45 million needed to balance the budget because of state budget cuts. Dobbins said the rest of the shortfall would come from trimming other operating expenses such as equipment purchases.

The personnel cuts come on top of previous budget cuts dating back to June 2002 when the regents declared a financial emergency. Ivy Locke, vice president for business and finance, said the university eliminated more than 26 positions -- including some vacant positions -- over the previous 16 months.

Provost Jane Stephens, the university's chief academic officer, said cutting and restructuring academic programs will save about $635,000.

The university plans to save about $400,000 on the nonacademic side, including $75,000 from athletics. As part of the plan, KRCU radio will look to raise $20,000 in additional donations for its operations, and student health services will raise its user fees to generate $40,000 in added revenue by June 2005.

Early retirement

Faculty leaders had urged the regents to adopt an early retirement plan that would have been open to faculty throughout the campus. But Dobbins told the regents that such a plan would save little money.

The savings, he said, comes from eliminating and reducing programs and not replacing faculty who leave.

"It's very hurtful to see cuts in established programs," psychology professor and Faculty Senate president Paul Lloyd said after the meeting.

But school officials said eliminating three academic programs will affect few students. Only 61 undergraduate and graduate students currently are majoring in geography, geosciences and sociology. Of those students, 79 percent are juniors and seniors and should be able to complete their course work, Stephens said.

The cost-cutting plan requires reviews in spring 2005 of academic programs in corporate communication, organizational administration, French, food service and hospitality management, speech, dance and economics. They were among 18 academic programs considered for cuts.

Crystal Sigala, a junior from St. Louis, said she was relieved that her philosophy major wasn't being cut. But she wished the regents had found another way to trim costs without cutting academic programs.

"I think they should have cut athletics more," she said.

Laura Hockensmith, the nonvoting student regent, said after the meeting that she hated to see any program cut. "Sitting up in front of everybody, my heart was broken the whole time," she said.

"I think this is going to rock the boat a little bit," she said.

335-6611, extension 123


On Thursday, the board of regents voted to:

Eliminate geography, sociology and geosciences degree programs

Cut faculty positions in geography, physics, sociology, philosophy, agriculture, geosciences and economics

Merged the agriculture major with agribusiness

Eliminated free Internet dial-up service for faculty, staff and students

Cut the men's golf program

Restructured vending services, as well as training and development, continuing education and off-campus programs

Eliminated the school's environmental and safety risk manager position

Increased user fees for student health services

Ordered KRCU radio to raise an additional $20,000 in donations from listeners and corporate sponsors

SOURCE: Southeast Missouri State University

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