DEARBORN – The University’s Dearborn campus will cancel three dozen or more classes for the upcoming winter term because of budget shortfalls, with the bulk of the cancellations falling in the College of Arts, Sciences, and Letters, according to University officials.
The revelation, which came after course schedule books were already printed and distributed, has sent teachers reeling and students panicking to make sure offerings they need for graduation are still available.
At least 30 sections will be eliminated due to a deficit of at least $300,000, CASL Dean Katie Anderson-Levitt said.
The CASL cancellations are in addition to cuts in other schools: The School of Management cut as many as 12 classes before its course guide was printed, and the School of Engineering cut online graduate courses.
“This is not a minor issue,” said Stanley Henderson, vice chancellor of enrollment and student life.
But Henderson and other administrators were quick to add that the University must try its hardest not to let the cuts affect students who are graduating soon. Henderson called the decision to make cuts a “student-centered decision.”
The University’s Dearborn campus has seen its state funding slashed in recent years even more severely than that of the flagship Ann Arbor campus. When adjusted for inflation, state appropriations per student for the Dearborn campus are 31.18 percent lower than they were five years ago, according to a Presidents Council, State Universities of Michigan report.
Daniel Little, chancellor of the Dearborn campus, said the school can help recoup some of the losses by consolidating classes.
Financial reports published at the end of June show CASL with a deficit of $302,000, while the School of Management has incurred a deficit of $1,338,000. The schools of Engineering and Education both ended the fiscal year with surpluses.
University spokesman Terry Gallagher said the cuts are ones that would normally be made due to low class enrollment.
All the talk of canceling classes has many teachers – especially adjunct lecturers – furious over the impending loss of work.
Bonnie Halloran, president of the Lecturers’ Employee Organization, called the cuts irresponsible.
“We think that there are other ways of doing this,” she said.
Sheryl Edwards, LEO’s Dearborn chair, said all departments in CASL are being required to make cuts. “This means fewer classes for students to choose from,” Edwards said. Nine sections in behavioral sciences and nine in social sciences are slated to be cut, at least for the winter term.
The fall 2005 term included 664 offerings for Dearborn students, so reducing that number by 30 won’t be a drastic change, said Anderson-Levitt, the CASL dean. But she did acknowledge that part-time instructors will be hit the hardest by the decision. “I don’t know how many individuals will be affected,” she said. When asked if any teachers will lose their jobs, the dean said, “I hope not.”
Despite the deficits, Bob Gassel, assistant vice chancellor for finance, insisted that the Dearborn campus is in no financial trouble.
“The University is fine. There are adjustments the academic units need to make,” he said. In a letter accompanying the financial reports, however, Gassel acknowledged that “this past year was very financially challenging.”
Some questioned the timing of the cuts. Departments of CASL were still finalizing section cancellations as of press time. Student registration for the winter term begins Nov. 9th.
“It’s regrettable that this couldn’t be settled before printed schedules were distributed,” Anderson-Levitt said. “But we’re being very cautious about this. We’re really concerned to make sure students are able to graduate in a timely matter.”
Students who need a course that is no longer offered for graduation may petition CASL’s Office of Advising and Student Records for permission to enroll in an alternate course for credit. CASL Advising Director Marllis Shannon said the school would “bend over backwards” for students in that predicament.
The announcement of cancellations has many Dearborn students worried. Anna Lough, a junior majoring in education, said scheduling courses was hard enough before the cuts.
“There aren’t enough offered as it is,” she said. “A lot of students have to worry about work schedules.”
Engineering senior Keith Dye agreed: “I know that they don’t offer a lot of sections to begin with. This will be a major inconvenience for someone who’s trying to get done with their degree quicker.”
Bruce Bublitz, who recently took over as dean of the School of Management, cited “overspending” as the main cause of the problems. He also said as many as one-third of all spring and summer courses would be cut.
“We want to be clear that we’re doing everything that is plausible (to overcome the deficit),” Bublitz said. “But we’ll probably have to cut in both the fall and winter of next year, too.”
The School of Management’s woes come at a particularly inopportune time, with the school up for accreditation next fall. A shortage of tenured faculty, coupled with the budget crisis, could hurt its chances. “If we don’t have the additional faculty, we could be in trouble,” Bublitz said.
LEO members held informational pickets Monday and Tuesday in front of the CASL building and behind the University Center. LEO is scheduled to hold a press conference and march to the Administration Building at 2 p.m. today, with the aim of highlighting the key issues and voicing the opinions of faculty and students.
Edwards, of LEO, said the union’s concerns over spending stem deeper than a lack of state appropriations.
“Everybody says that the whole structure of this university can’t be changed,” she said. “It’s garbage.”
– This article is reprinted with permission from The Michigan Journal, the student newspaper at the University’s Dearborn campus.