The Strategic Priorities Task Force (SPT) has received opposition to some of its proposed cost-saving methods in the form of a letter with more than 60 faculty signatures.
According to the SPT draft report, the task force has recommended cuts in academics in order to meet university budgetary needs. The recommendations are estimated to save the university more than $40 million by 2015.
The faculty members, representing 27 different departments, presented a letter in disagreement with those recommendations at the board of trustees meeting Sept. 24.
These Miami professors hope the SPT will reconsider its recommended budget cuts.
“They were only looking at the academic budget and told to come up with enough to cover Miami’s financial shortfalls,” said Deborah Lyons, a classics associate professor.
President David Hodge said this is “completely false.”
According to Hodge, the university has already made cuts all across the board and academics has been the least affected thus far.
“Academic quality is our bread and butter,” he said. “It’s our strength.”
The group of faculty members who oppose the changes is urging the SPT to reconsider the recommendation. They are not comfortable with the university’s plan to cut classes with less than 20 students, Lyons said.
“Classes under 20 are beneficial and necessary,” Lyons said. “The (SPT) report is one-size fits all.”
Junior Grant Johnson, a theater major, takes classes with an average size of 12 to 14 students, which he believes is very beneficial to his academic career.
“With (more than) 20 students, you don’t get the kind of coaching you need,” he said. “I think having smaller classes is a lot better. You get more hands-on and the environment is better too.”
Lyons would like to see the task force take a harder look at the “very expensive athletic program” and the “bloated administration.”
Hodge said he assures the Miami community the wording of the recommendation will change.
As of now there are 2,000 courses offered every year with 20 students or less. The task force has proposed eliminating 200 of those classes, which would generate a savings of $3.2 million, according to Hodge.
“We have to be conscious of the fact that classes are under-enrolled,” Hodge said.
But some professors disagree.
According to Lyons, language and humanities classes are most beneficial when taught with less than 20 students.
Eliminating small classes and combining less popular majors will take away from Miami’s liberal education, according to the faculty letter.
This group of faculty fears Miami will lose its distinctive character if the proposed cuts are made.
Hodge agrees liberal education is “huge for Miami,” but he thinks it is necessary to reorganize Miami’s academic structure.
“Not to change is not an option if we want to continue to be a high quality university,” he said.
The task force and this group of faculty are also unable to reach a harmonious decision on the prospect of a new student center.
The faculty letter urges the task force to stop plans for the student center until it can be fully funded.
According to Hodge, the faculty letter is too late in addressing concerns about the student center because decisions to build the Armstrong Student Center are final.
In order to be a first-class university, Hodge said Miami cannot have the oldest student center in the state.
“We have put together a very responsible financial plan,” Hodge said.
Plans to hire a private consulting firm are also causing tension between the two groups.
According to Hodge, the firm is being hired to look at Miami and pinpoint ways to create more efficiency. He said the firm is estimated to cost hundreds of thousand of dollars, but will be paid back in the savings the firm believes it will create over time.
The opposing group of faculty is very uncomfortable with this, according to Lyons.
“I don’t like the idea of hiring someone from outside the university who doesn’t have a stake in the future of Miami,” she said. “Faculty cares a great deal about preserving Miami’s strength.”
The group would like SPT to reconsider the recommendation because of a lack of representation from the liberal arts departments and other small programs.
Hodge said this is a process many universities are going through.
“Their anxiety is understandable, but we can’t be all things to all people,” Hodge said.