|Making professors work more is just one of the many suggestions coming from university President Sidney McPhee’s “Positioning the University for the Future” initiative.
University officials declined to weigh in on the subject, only saying, as News and Public Affairs Director Tom Tozer did, “Nothing is certain.
“The president will receive final recommendations from the work groups in another week or so, and they will be subject to further review,” Tozer continued. “Eventually items will be considered at the next TBR meeting.”
McPhee released interim reports Monday detailing the work done so far to trim down MTSU’s budget by 20 percent for fiscal year 2009-10. These are only recommendations and nothing has been officially presented yet, Tozer said.
The groups, as well as a steering committee, are trying to cut the budget at MTSU by looking at ways to eliminate waste, consolidate resources and generate new funding sources for the future, as well as look at cutting university jobs and possibly future classes offered. Final proposals should be submitted by March.
“I am pleased to report that we have reached an important milestone in the process for identifying how we will address critical budget issues here at MTSU,” McPhee wrote in reference to the interim reports.
Along with ideas like getting alumni to donate more and conserving energy, the workgroups have also suggested eliminating a librarian, taking WMOT-FM off the air and restructuring some departments.
Eliminating temporary faculty in certain departments where full-time professors teach fewer than four classes per semester on average could save the university more than $2 million a year, economics professor and Academic and Instruction Review (AIR) Workgroup Chairman Charles Baum wrote in the AIR interim report.
The proposal could cut up to 65 temporary teaching jobs in departments across the university. Departments looking at the biggest cuts are math, English and history, with most of the cuts concentrated in the college of liberal arts.
Some faculty, like journalism professor Larry Burriss, fear it could impact the quality of classes taught.
“That means the instructor probably will not be able to have the students do oral reports or projects,” he said. “And the instructor will not be able to spend as much time with individual students discussing class progress, job opportunities, etc.”
He said the cuts to temporary faculty could also impact the university’s accreditation by redirecting professors’ time from advising students and research.
“This, in turn, could have impacts on various accreditations, student employment after graduation, graduation rates, etc.,” he added.
The AIR workgroup also suggested furloughing professors one day per month for a savings of $5.2 million.
“The rationale for the furlough is that it would preserve jobs otherwise lost,” Baum wrote. “This, in turn, would demonstrate that employees at MTSU are part of a larger community willing to sacrifice for members.”
The group also recommended other proposals with smaller savings for the school, like a retirement buyout plan, suspend overtime pay for clerical staff, defer faculty sabbaticals and eliminate low enrollment summer classes.
“Any actions will have ‘ripple effects,’ some of which we may not be able to predict,” Burris said.
The workgroups were created late last year in response to Gov. Phil Bredesen’s call to trim as much as $20 million from the school’s budget.
In his State of the State speech Monday night, Bredesen again asked higher education officials to work with him and the state legislature to keep higher education affordable, get more kids to graduate and create a true 21st century higher education system for Tennessee.
On Wednesday, Bredesen said the federal stimulus package should help ease cuts to higher education.
“Actually I think the stimulus package … had some money, which really was very specifically directed at education and could be used to restore higher education. Those cuts in higher education and particularly the second layer of them, are very difficult cuts,” Bredesen said.
Michelle Willard can be contacted at 615-869-0816 or email@example.com.