Faculty fear job, course cuts for Winter 2016 semester

Ray Bressette

With a $2.6 million budget deficit caused by a higher than expected drop in enrollment,  NMU faculty members fear for their courses and even their jobs in the upcoming Winter 2016 semester.re-enrollment_KM

Alesia Maki, an adjunct professor who teaches Zumba said cuts are on the horizon.

“We’ve been told that roughly 150 jobs will be cut campus wide,” Maki said. “The buzz around campus is that if you have a term that is expiring, or if you are contingent or adjunct, your job is in jeopardy. I know that when they look at these positions, they will take into consideration seniority, but we don’t know who is making these decisions, how they are making them and why.”

Emails requesting comment from other academic departments concerning how enrollment could affect next year’s course offerings were not answered by press time.

Earlier this semester it was announced that enrollment had dropped 423 students below what was origanally anticipated, a decrease of roughly 5 percent.

NMU President Fritz Erickson said the number of students per class will play a large role in determining the number of sections for every course offered.

“We’re really looking at how we can manage things in the most appropriate fashion,” Erickson said. “Sometimes it means if you’re running three classes that each have a capacity of 30, but you have 60 students spread out over those three classes, you need to ask yourself if you need three sections or if you can offer two. How we offer these in a different structures is up for debate.”

NMU Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Kerri Schuiling said the cuts won’t come directly from Cohodas.

“The actual cuts will come from the department heads and will be recommended to me by their respective deans,” Schuiling said. “The same courses might be offered, but not as many classes will be offered. We just don’t have as many students anymore.”

The administration said in a Sept. 9 press release that NMU is launching an innovative referral program for students and alumni and other marketing outreach efforts with the plans to significantly increase the prospect and applicant pool of students for Fall 2016.

The university has been battling declining enrollment for six straight years.

To combat the constant decline, NMU has revamped its website, along with releasing a new slogan and establishing itself in high school classrooms, all in an effort to get more students on the books.

With these efforts, Maki said NMU has also looked to faculty to do all it can to help bring more students to Northern.

“The school is turning to the faculty and saying they need us to help them and recognize that we’re a very big aspect in raising numbers,” Maki said. “They’ve inserted incentives for faculty members to increase enrollment, but they sit there and tell us enrollment’s down and they have to cut the budget to increase enrollment.

We don’t understand how that could possibly increase enrollment, and they aren’t answering.

“If it’s a budget issue, what other aspects of campus are receiving cuts? We just hired a new vice president. We’re the ones who help the students.”

Maki said she and her colleagues have been notified that anyone who is contingent or adjunct faculty will not be teaching unless the course is required for a major and cannot be taught by graduate assistants or coaches.

“The HP department is interesting because there’s been discussion around activity classes and how many are in our curriculum,” Erickson said. “We’re looking at if there is a different funding and operational mechanism for activity classes out there. I think there are. We’ve been discussing different models we could put in place to keep those courses up and running.

“Many of these courses are used by community members over the age of 62 and don’t pay tuition for these courses. It’s a wonderful thing to do, but we have to look at how we can do this in the most appropriate fashion.”

Schuiling said the goal is not necessarily to cut courses, but to eliminate sections of courses.

“It’s not that we’re going to take away all of classes in a particular area, but we have less students, so we’ll have to offer less classes,” Schuiling said. “How that will impact HP courses I do not know. These numbers and decisions will be made by each individual department.”

Erickson said he plans on holding town hall style meetings in the near future to garner students’ thoughts and ideas on courses at NMU.

“I understand that people get nervous, and we have as good a rumor as any place I’ve ever seen,” Erickson said. “What I would encourage people to do is wait and be part of the discussion process and decision making process.”