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Strategic Budget Advisory Committee (SBAC)
Strategic Budget Advisory Committee

WSU Cuts 14 Part-Time Faculty Spots

February 10, 2009

BY ROY WENZL - The Wichita Eagle

What happened at Wichita State University on Friday is the latest in what will likely be a long list of budget cuts:

Fourteen part-time faculty members at the Elliott School of Communication were sent letters telling them they probably won't be needed for the next school year.

Administrators say there will be a lot more of this as WSU prepares for cuts of as much as 7 to 11 percent in state assistance. University planners are looking at everything from larger class sizes to a hiring freeze to many other measures to save and cut.

One big problem right now: No one, not even President Don Beggs, knows how bad this will become for WSU, because the state hasn't decided how much to cut from universities. Plus, no one knows how much money -- if any -- the federal stimulus package might provide to help rescue Kansas from budget deficits and major funding cuts at its universities.

"The target numbers keep shifting overnight," Beggs said Monday.

He said the most he could predict was a 7 percent cut in state-provided money over the next two years, which he calculated could mean about $5.45 million cut from about $78 million in state assistance to WSU.

WSU is planning for more than that. Susan Schultz Huxman, director of the Elliott School, said she was told by the WSU dean of liberal arts and sciences to plan for a 9 percent reduction.

The result could be hard on all WSU students and faculty.

"Obviously, I'm very concerned about our predicament," Huxman wrote Friday to the part-time adjunct faculty being notified.

"Short-term we can have full-time faculty teach overloads and increase class size, but long-term we will not be able to fulfill our mission if the classes you teach for us cannot be reinstated," she wrote. "Know that the WSU administration is fully aware of this. And all I can say is that our thin line-up of courses next year will not become the 'new normal.' "

Beggs said the university's core mission will not diminish, and graduations will not be delayed. But there are many problems to sort out, he and others at WSU acknowledged.

For example, his provost and vice president for academic affairs and research, Gary Miller, said that existing full-time faculty and graduate assistants could make up for many classes taught by part-time professors, but only at great cost.

"When you do that, it damages the university's ability to conduct research and engage with the community," Miller said. "Those other two missions are very important."

One of the few good things to come out of this, Miller said, is that he has heard many useful ideas from faculty and administrators about how to keep services going at WSU.

"The level of creativity is very high," he said.

Faculty members aren't talking much about what this will mean for them, said WSU faculty president Larry Spurgeon, who teaches courses on business law and insurance.

"They worry, of course, about what it might mean for their jobs, but mostly what I've heard is worry about what all of this will mean for the quality of all our programs," Spurgeon said Monday.

Beggs said it will be some time before the extent of what WSU will lose might be known. He and other planners have been working on budget plans since last August.

"And thank God we've been doing that," Beggs said. "Over the years I've been involved in some situations where we didn't have that kind of time, and it was really bad."

Reach Roy Wenzl at 316-268-6219 or rwenzl@wichitaeagle.com.