‘At the Bone’
Trustees hear budget cuts effects on academic programs, faculty retention
Faculty at East Carolina University continue to be concerned about the effects of budget cuts on academic programs and retention, the outgoing chair of the Faculty Senate told the ECU Board of Trustees.
Marianna Walker addressed trustees April 20 in her last official meeting with the board. Walker’s term ends July 1.
In the current academic year, ECU lost more than 200 faculty positions and an additional 87 fixed-term faculty members did not have contracts renewed. The losses resulted in 800 fewer course sections offered to students, according to finance and administration officials.
Walker said many faculty are being recruited away from ECU and North Carolina to institutions providing higher salaries and incentives for research and scholarship. “As a result, faculty who are left in the departments may be faced with greater teaching loads and more students to mentor in research and creative activities,” Walker said.
A report from finance and administration shows that as of March, the Division of Academic Affairs has lost at least 40 faculty members who received competitive offers from other institutions since academic year 2008-2009. Twenty-nine of those losses occurred since academic year 2009-2010.
Faculty members are also awaiting a recommendation expected later this month from the Program Prioritization Committee, which has been studying cost savings and academic reorganization.
Faculty and staff have commented on four separate scenarios for reorganization released by the committee in March. The options pulled components from 57 possible changes ranging from the relocation of individual departments to the restructuring of entire colleges with estimated cost savings ranging from $1 million to $3.8 million annually.
“Regardless of the outcome, ECU has an established process for changes to academic units and their faculty,” Walker said.
Chancellor Steve Ballard shared the comments he made at the third annual State of the University Address on April 10 with trustees, pledging continued excellence amid fiscal crisis and state funding cuts.
“We must do business differently,” he said. “Times have changed.”
Any change to ECU’s academic programs or structures must be accomplished by maintaining the university’s mission and quality of classroom experience offered to students, he said in the address.
“The heart of it is doing business differently in a new economic environment,” Ballard said.
Trustee Mark Tipton suggested North Carolina review or return to public/private partnerships for funding in order to cover academic costs.
“We’ve got to start thinking creatively,” Tipton said. “When you’re at the bone, you’re at the bone. We’re all going to be amputees shortly.”
In other business, trustees approved the purchase of land for dental service learning centers in Sylva, Lillington and Spruce Pine for $1 each. The additions will bring the number of clinics to five in the state, with 10 planned in the future. The first, in Ahoskie, is scheduled to open in June.
The School of Dental Medicine’s permanent home, Ross Hall, is expected to open this August in time for the second class of dental students.