Published: March 20, 2009
Ken Fancher is planning on transferring to MTSU next spring to be a sports reporter after he completes his associate’s degree at Roane State.
His chosen path takes him into the college of mass communication, one of the few departments spared from proposed budget cuts.
“MTSU has exactly what I need here. UT doesn’t,” the 19-year-old from Knoxville said.
But not every department is on such sure footing with the university facing a $19.3 million reduction in state funding over the next two years.
“We are well underway to respond to that because of the strategic way we have approached the situation,” MTSU Pres. Sidney McPhee said, adding he has kept the process open and transparent so the university and broader community can participate.
“Yes, we are making some difficult decisions, but these changes are necessary …” he continued, noting the proposed changes will “help the university survive and thrive” in the future.
He cited elimination of bachelor of science degrees in foreign languages. While that degree offering will be cut, students will still have the opportunity to complete a bachelor of arts degree in foreign languages.
He also reiterated that even if a major or concentration is cut, current students will be able to complete their degrees but no new students will be admitted to the programs.
One step to changing the university in the future is restructuring the current colleges – basic and applied sciences, education and behavioral sciences, and liberal arts – into the colleges of arts and sciences; education and teacher preparation; and social and behavioral sciences.
“We have an opportunity to better realign the university for the 21st century …” he said. “(The changes) may not save money but they are part of a strategy to see how we look in the next 10 to 15 years.”
McPhee said federal stimulus funds will allow the university will take this year to study and possibly implement the changes, along with many other proposed recommendations.
The federal stimulus funds gives the university “breathing room,” but only for two years, he said, explaining MTSU must submit a three-year budget to the Tennessee Board of Regents to ensure it, and other TBR institutions, are not relying too heavily on temporary federal dollars.
The faculty senate wants McPhee to take the two years and carefully deliberate the elimination of academic offerings and to focus more on fundraising.
“Given the reprieve the federal stimulus bill provides, we encourage MTSU to focus primarily on implementing the longer-term, revenue-generating proposals the Strategic Work Groups proposed and the Oversight Steering Committee endorsed,” MTSU Faculty Senate Pres. Alfred Lutz wrote in response to the first-round of recommendations.
McPhee insists the university administration will take a scalpel, rather than a hatchet, to its budget over the next two years and trim off parts not essential to academics, which is a promise the faculty senate hopes he keeps.
“In our view the elimination of departments is … (a) draconian action,” Lutz wrote.
The group also asked for written reasons for the elimination of any departments, majors or tenured faculty.
Michelle Willard can be contacted at 615-869-0816 or firstname.lastname@example.org.