News

The Budget Crunch That Wasn’t

By ELIZABETH WHITE

Managing Editor

(TEANECK) – On Tuesday, there was a budget crunch.

By Wednesday, it was gone.

On Tuesday, The Equinox spoke to Dr. Gillian Small, university provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs, looking for an explanation for proposed spending cuts.

“I think most people are adjusting, they’re doing okay,” Small said. “I think there might be some grumbling sometimes because no one likes change, but we certainly want the students to come first.”

Dr. Karen Buzzard, director of the School of Art and Media Studies, told The Equinox that she had been informed that her adjunct budget had been reduced for the spring semester.

Adjuncts make up between 60-70 percent of the faculty, according to Buzzard.

Small said that academia is always changing and that it’s all about strategizing the university’s budget. She referred to the spending cuts as “streamlining.”

Small said that the university is trying to adjust to changing enrollment in programs university- wide. Some programs are seeing higher enrollment numbers, while enrollment is decreasing in others.

“Obviously we have to support all of the programs we’re offering to the students,” Small said.

A larger incoming freshmen class presented a major challenge for the administration. According to the Fall 2017 Freshmen Application Statistic Report, there were 603 deposits received in 2017, as compared to 392 deposits in 2016.

“We’ve had to cater to the [larger freshman class],” Small said. “It affected the budget a little bit to make sure that we have the faculty in place to teach them.”

 

Small explained that if there is a program with high enrollment, more resources will be needed to cover that and add extra sections for classes. She reiterated that the university is trying to be more efficient in spending.

“In general, for convenience, we might open new sections,” she said. “But we have sort of been saying, ‘Can we make sure the sections have a significant number of people in them before we open up a new section?’”

Small said the administration ultimately doesn’t want to increase the small class sizes that distinguish FDU.

At first, Buzzard thought that she would have no choice but to cut sections in order to maintain the new adjunct goal.

“I thought I had to cut 7-8 sections,” she said. “But when I went to Dean Cohen she said not to worry about it.”

Dr. Vicki Cohen is the interim dean of University College.

Gary Darden, associate professor of history and department chair, deferred to the Provost when The Equinox asked for comment: “Thank you for your email and question. I believe this question can best be answered by the University Provost, who is as the chief academic officer for FDU supervises all such budgets. Provost Small is copied here.”

Small explained that it is a common practice at most universities to adjust the budget to the changing dynamics of the school. She believes that the faculty understand the issue at hand.

“If there are really people who think they already can’t  make those offerings, we should talk about it, because the intention is never to stop offering programming that students need,” Small said. “I have an open door. If people have an issue they can come and talk about it.”

Small said that they can be flexible with the budget if a program needs the funding.

“We may have said that this is the budget we want you to keep to, but if that can’t be accommodated to accomplish their mission, then clearly we’re not going to say you can’t bring additional faculty in,” Small said.

Small said that they are not asking departments to cut faculty.

“There’s no question of ever laying faculty off or having faculty leave the university,” she said, “We just ask them to be more flexible to accommodate students. We wouldn’t say you can’t bring adjuncts and to add more students into the classroom.”

Small is ready to work with departments that are unable to meet the new demands.

“If there are departments that are really struggling to meet their teaching obligations, then certainly they can talk to their dean, and the dean can talk to me,” Small said. “We can try to deal with that.”

Small said that the streamlining process is not meant to restrict each department’s offerings.

“We’re hoping that it’s not affecting programming,” Small said. “We’re hoping students can still get everything they need, [we’re just] being more strategic on how we do it.”

Dr. Janet Boyd, director of the School of Humanities and interim associate dean of University College, talked about how her department would be affected by the proposed spending cuts.

She explained that most of her department was full- time faculty. The adjunct budget was mostly used for the writing and language programs.

 At the time of the interview with The Equinox on Tuesday, Boyd’s adjunct budget had also been reduced for the spring.
The spending cuts made it more difficult for Boyd when it came time to planning courses for the spring semester.

“[Our budgeting] was efficient in the past,” Boyd said. “But it is more challenging to appropriately staff necessary classes, especially with increased enrollment.”

Boyd said that there are only so many ways to streamline a program before it presents problems.

“We have not yet cut sections and/or adjuncts for the spring because this would mean reducing the number of freshman writing classes and introductory foreign language classes, which students need to take in the first year for the general education requirements, and we have a larger freshman class this year,” Boyd said.

Like Buzzard, Boyd said that she worked with Dean Cohen to make the classes work with their finite budget.

Boyd said that the students are always her first priority.

“I make sure that students get what they need,” she said. “I don’t compromise on that.”

She explained that before the spending cuts were introduced, there were already conversations taking place about class size and the number of sections being offered.

But on Wednesday, everything changed.

 

After the interview with Boyd on Tuesday, The Equinox emailed her regarding the percentage that her adjunct budget was cut.
Boyd replied that her budget “has been reviewed and restored,” and that her department “will not be facing the anticipated challenges in the spring.”

Buzzard told The Equinox she had also been informed that her budget had been restored.

The Equinox also reached out to the following faculty members for comment, none of whom responded in time for publication: Teresa Oettinger Montani, Education; Rebecca Chace, Creative Writing; Kalyan Mondal, electrical engineering & information technology; Ernest Kovancs, Administrative Science; and Li Qin, information systems.

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