At the Sept. 22 public forum of the Strategic Priorities Task Force (SPT), committee members reviewed various budget recommendations and discussed plans for their implementation. These plans included proposals to cut classes that have less than 20 students and the removal of those academic majors showing a trend of lower student enrollment. These recommendations generated deep concern from faculty. In a presentation Sept. 24, 60 faculty representatives from 27 departments in five schools delivered a letter arguing against the SPT suggestions and indicating their concern that certain aspects of the Miami University educational experience will be sacrificed due to budget cuts.
The editorial board of The Miami Student believes the faculty letter must be given serious consideration by members of the SPT and the administration. The letter shows disconnect between the vision of the faculty and the priorities of the SPT. The faculty letter is a reflection of feelings of misrepresentation and unequal treatment of departments based upon profitability for the university and not academic success.
The SPT recommendations are not in the best interest of the university and its goal of providing a top rated education. In order to remain competitive and continue to be attractive to prospective students, the university must remain committed to academic and student success first and foremost. This requires maintaining smaller class sizes where they are most needed. It is crucial any possible change be determined based upon department with the cooperation of faculty. Miami pushes the appeal of the low student to faculty ratio in all aspects of the recruiting process, which certainly is a huge selling point. However, upon making such promises, the university must be able to deliver. If budget cuts alter the amount of classes offered, students will have no choice but to take larger lectures with less individual attention.
Proposals to cut classes seem ironic in light of Miami’s top educational rating and the national attention surrounding the Greek system. Now does not seem an appropriate time to implement such drastic negative changes that undermine Miami’s commitment to providing one of the best educational experiences in the nation. All of the proposed cuts completely contradict the recent U.S. News and World Report ranking of Miami as second in the nation in its commitment to teaching.
The use of a private consulting firm to help determine the best cost-saving methods is a responsible initiative. However, when the use of that firm costs the university hundreds of thousands of dollars, the board questions whether the benefits outweigh the costs. The high price must really be considered, especially when undergraduate education is at risk.
The SPT needs to encourage open communication between faculty, students and the administration. The changes proposed will affect all members of the Miami community and should be thoroughly discussed before any drastic changes are implemented. They cannot be put into action without exploring the many resulting consequences. Professors and students must be proactive in working to make their voices heard. With so many unanswered questions and anxieties about the effect of SPT suggestions, it is crucial that the Miami community continues to be involved. If classes are going to be cut, students need to be made aware immediately. The ability to get specific required courses for graduation is a big concern for all students. If these cuts go through, prompt changes must be clear to all students so they can prepare accordingly.