Faculty Council discusses budget, enrollment projections for 2016-17 school year

Currently, MU has received 23 percent fewer deposits compared to this time last year.
A faculty council member conducts a meeting on March 10 in Memorial Student Union.

Faculty Council discussed enrollment projections for fall 2016 and the possibility of an academic calendar change for the spring 2019 semester during Thursday’s meeting, interspersed with dialogue about the $32 million budget shortfall.


Throughout the meeting, the council discussed the recent news of the projected $32 million budget shortfall for the 2016-17 school year. Faculty Council Chairman Ben Trachtenberg called the situation “grim.” He said that the Faculty Council Executive Committee had spoken to Vice Chancellor for Finance Rhonda Gibler on Monday and first heard about the budget loss there.

“It is what it is,” Trachtenberg said. “If the money’s not there, it’s not there, and we’re all going to have to do our part to make it work.”

He encouraged council members to speak with their schools and colleges to discuss with the consequences of the expected losses.

“This is why deans get paid big money, to make these hard decisions,” Trachtenberg said.

Some council members said their deans have already talked with them about steps going forward. Vice Chairwoman Nicole Monnier said the College of Arts and Science will be making cuts by department. Other members said their deans have yet to announce what will happen.

College of Engineering Dean Elizabeth Loboa announced Thursday afternoon that six non-tenured track faculty members would not have their contracts renewed, the Columbia Missourian reported.

Enrollment for fall 2016

Interim Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Barbara Rupp spoke to the council about latest enrollment projections and said the admissions office was working hard to boost deposits in an attempt to prevent the budget shortfall from being so large.

Currently, MU has received 23 percent fewer deposits compared to this time last year. Rupp said she expects more will come in as the school year progresses and high school seniors finalize their decisions.

Faculty and students have been playing a large role in working to help increase the yield rate, Rupp said, calling faculty response “nothing short of remarkable.”

“What we’re doing is everything we can to increase yield between now and a little over a month to affect any change in our numbers,” Rupp said.

A variety of plans have been implemented to attract students, such as increasing the number of recruiters in various cities, sending out special mailings and personally calling prospective students, Rupp said.

Rupp said many departments have sent out personalized emails to prospective students. The College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources has utilized social media to reach prospective students, while the School of Journalism has reached out to students via phone calls. There have also been a few additional scholarships made available to high-achieving students to entice them to attend MU.

Rupp made no mention of the unrest during the fall for being a reason for the decline in enrollment. Instead, she said that a decline had been expected for a while due to a decreasing number of high school graduates nationwide.

In addition, she said there has also been a “tremendous amount of competition” between schools.

“The numbers of high school graduates are down virtually everywhere except the South and the Southwest,” Rupp said. “So all of those large public universities are going out of state to try to pilfer students from us.”

Faculty Council Committee on Race Relations

Berkley Hudson, chairman of the Faculty Council Committee on Race Relations, said the 12-person committee, after meeting two hours each week for the past 10 months, will soon be ready to make presentations to departments and move out to the “broader university community.”

“We believe this is a way to shift habits of race,” Hudson said.

He said he hopes to have a report drawing together their findings and recommendations to present to Faculty Council at their June meeting.

Hudson also said that there will soon be a podcast addressing white faculty members. The podcast will be hosted by plant science professor Craig Roberts, someone Hudson said has gone through a “transformation” regarding his thinking about race.

He said that the members of the committee represents a diverse range of people who have tackled hard conversations.

“Jonathan Butler is still on the committee,” Hudson said. “(Interim UM System President) Mike Middleton is still on the committee. There were three or four (committee members) maybe who didn’t think there were any problems with race.”

Academic calendar

Academic Affairs Committee Chairman Art Jago presented a potential change to the academic calendar for the 2018-19 school year. Under the revised calendar, the spring semester would start a week earlier, before Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which would allow the semester to end a week earlier in May.

“The principal advantage in doing so is to provide our students with a longer — by a week — summer break in which to pursue work, internships or study abroad programs,” Jago said.

There are some other schools in Missouri that use the same calendar, such as Missouri State, Harris Stowe and Washington University in St. Louis.

Jago said a drawback is that winter break is when various academic decisions have to be made, such as putting students on probation. With a week shorter break, MU would have less time to make decisions regarding the academic standing of students, to notify them and to hear appeals.

Additionally, the roughly 350 students who study abroad during the winter intersession would be affected if dates of study abroad programs were not changed. Many students would arrive back to MU only a couple days before the start of the spring semester.

Professors also voiced concerns about intersession programs being eliminated and calendar changes affecting lab classes.

Trachtenberg asked the members to ask for opinions from their colleagues and students. No action was taken on the calendar; it will be discussed again at a later date.

Edited by Taylor Blatchford | tblatchford@themaneater.com

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