Humanities and sciences set to lose tenured professors | New

The University of Montana’s College of Humanities and Sciences could lose 15 full faculty members after UM administrators offered early retirement incentives to senior college professors this fall.

The 15 faculty members tentatively accepted an offer extended to 39 full-time and tenured faculty before the Nov. 1 deadline, according to UM’s director of strategic communications Dave Kuntz. The early retirement offers come as UM’s largest college has suffered multi-million dollar cuts in recent years.

Julie Baldwin, associate dean of humanities and sciences, said the retirements are due to the college’s current budget and declining enrollment.

“So this retirement incentive is an attempt to help align our budget with our current college enrollments, while maintaining our programs and offerings,” she said.

Baldwin said the college, which has around 20 programs and departments, has around 3,100 students, down 5% of pre-COVID enrollments in 2019. The University recently increased its overall numbers by 3% this fall.

She said the college currently has around 225 faculty members. According to Kuntz, there are around 480 professors in total under contract for fiscal year 2022.

Faculty members eligible for early retirement must be at least 86 years of combined age and years of service at UM. They had until November 7 to make a final decision.

Those who accepted the offer will receive their base salary after leaving the university, according to acting provost Reed Humphrey.

Maddie Hagan, a history and philosophy graduate, said retired professors would not be replaced.

“The potential of losing 15 teachers is terrible because it means 15 teachers will not be replaced,” she said.

Hagan quoted Robert Greene, a Russian history professor who died last December. She said her place was left vacant at the college.

Hagan said a lack of courses and gaps in the curriculum already exist at the college and buybacks will only get worse with retirements. She said she experienced the lack of available courses as she tried to complete all of her graduation requirements as a double major.

Baldwin said new professors can be hired behind retired professors inexpensively to help meet “critical needs.”

Humphrey said the benefits of offering the early retirement incentives outweigh the risks.

“The benefit of the early retirement incentive is a lot like this gross reduction in spending,” he said. “The risk, of course, is that you lose productive senior professors who choose to retire early. “

Humphrey said the university will address any possible gap in the curriculum left by the retirements.

“When a key faculty member leaves the University for another job, or retires and creates a gap in the curriculum, it is essential that the University address that gap,” he said. declared.

Humphrey said retirements are one way to meet the budget cuts planned for the college. He said the cuts were a way to reallocate funds to programs that are growing at UM.

Hagan staged a protest last spring in response to a March proposal for $ 2.6 million in college budget cuts by 2023. The college has suffered $ 10.4 million in cuts since 2015.

Baldwin said the cuts budgeted by 2023 will actually be around $ 2 million due to savings in the last fiscal year.

The retirement offers also aim to increase the student / teacher ratio. Stacey Eve, acting assistant vice president of operations and finance, said retirements will bring UM closer to the goal of an 18-to-1 student-faculty ratio.

The UM student-faculty ratio is budgeted at 17 to 1, as measured by the University’s operating budget for fiscal year 2022.

Baldwin, who has worked at the college for 16 years, said there was always fear that cuts to the college could lead to a further drop in enrollment.

“I have been here throughout this period, and I hope not, that we have still, despite all these budget cuts, been able to maintain most of our offers and programs,” she said. declared.

Baldwin pointed to the college’s recently added bachelor’s degree in creative writing and said the college is considering potentially adding more programs, even in light of retirements.

Humphrey said full-year employees have until May 14 to retire and full-year employees have until June 30. Payments must take place within 90 days of the dates.

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