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Date:   May 17, 2017

To:       Faculty and staff, School of Journalism and Communication

From:  Juan-Carlos Molleda, PhD, Edwin L. Artzt Dean and Professor

Re:       Update on SOJC budget and NTTF nonrenewals

In a meeting with the provost this week, we finalized our plans to balance the SOJC’s budget. I am writing to give you details about the overall strategy we will put in place and the specific tactics we will implement over the coming year.

First, I want to acknowledge how difficult this process is for the people who are affected by the budget cuts, as well as their colleagues and students. I have heard from many of you directly, and I regret the challenges some of you are now facing as a result of the difficult decisions we have had to make. It is because of this impact that I feel it is so important to clearly communicate where nonrenewals fit within the context of our overall plan to close our budget gap.

As you know, we have been working with the Office of the Provost and Academic Affairs to balance our budget, which requires reducing our general operating expenses by $1.9 million as of FY 2020. This process is necessary because our expenditures have been greater than our budget allocation for the past two years. In fact, SOJC expenditures have grown more than 50 percent since 2013 while student credits increased at a much lower rate. Although other colleges and schools are going through similar budget-balancing exercises, the SOJC’s expenditure growth has outpaced that of all other schools, making ours a particularly challenging process.

In keeping with the strategy set by the president and the provost, we must achieve these cost reductions without sacrificing our mission of academic excellence (Schill memo, Jan. 6, 2016). I would add to this condition that we must also stay true to our commitment to giving our students the high-quality education and experiences that will allow them to excel in their chosen professions. These are the core principles that have guided all the choices we have made throughout this process.

With regard to nonrenewals, it is important to note that because labor costs represent approximately 93 percent of our expenditures, there is no way to balance the budget without making some faculty and staff reductions. However, knowing that these decisions are the ones with the most severe impacts on individuals, we have attempted to minimize nonrenewals in our budget plan and to give as much advance knowledge as possible to those who are not being renewed.

Although it is unclear how or even if the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission’s recent rejection of the tuition increase will ultimately influence the budget (Schill memo, May 12, 2017), at this time we are moving ahead with the plan we have already put in place to achieve both cost savings and revenue growth through 2020.

Over the next year, the school will endeavor to achieve these goals:

  • Expand enrollment of our three professional master’s programs. With donor funds, the SOJC has hired a graduate recruitment manager to strategically increase enrollment in these key programs. We have set what I consider to be a very realistic goal of increasing enrollment by two students in each of the three professional master’s programs in 2017–18, for revenue growth of approximately $100,000.
  • Review curriculum to find efficiencies and revise. Our associate dean for undergraduate affairs, in consultation with area directors and graduate program directors, has identified courses with low enrollment. We will eliminate sections from these classes beginning in fall 2017 to achieve savings with only minimal impact to students. A faculty committee is considering offering refined courses to all majors, adding requirements in each area and modifying our Gateway series to better prepare students for their careers while capturing the revenue associated with additional student credits. If realized, this additional revenue will help offset our budget gap.
  • Nonrenew three career NTTF members and eight instructors pro tem and reduce FTE of two. These numbers have not changed since our last faculty-staff meeting. The majority of these nonrenewals are part-time positions, including one career and three pro tem individuals in Eugene and one career and two pro tem individuals in Portland. Full-time nonrenewals include one postdoctoral fellowship, two visiting assistant professorships, and one career NTTF position. We will not refill the position of a part-time NTTF member who is retiring, and we are decreasing the workloads of two part-time career NTTF members. These reductions will result in a cost savings of $400,000 in 2017–18.
  • Review and revise NTTF workloads. A faculty task force reviewed a proposal to increase the workload of a professor of practice from five courses to six and increasing the workload of a career NTTF member from six courses to eight. An alternative suggestion has also been submitted, and we will make final decisions after discussions with the provost’s office.
  • Consider reductions in nonfaculty areas. The SOJC will close the remainder of the budget gap through staff attrition and administrative service reductions. Following the university’s model of streamlining IT and communication services, the SOJC has already eliminated two positions from our business office by creating a shared business center with the College of Design. Further review of administrative support for the SOJC is underway.

 

By AY 2017–18, these efforts will result in a savings of approximately $500,000 of the total $1.9 million we need to trim from the budget. To help us stay on track, the Office of the Provost and Academic Affairs is allocating $500,000 to help cover the additional cost of our faculty hires starting in fall 2017. The university will also augment the SOJC recurring budget by $300,000 to establish a sustainable baseline before transitioning to the new budget model.

To continue working toward a balanced budget, we are considering a number of tactics to achieve further savings and revenue increases during AY 2018–19 and AY 2019–20. I will follow up later this week with a second memo delineating our future plans.

I know that none of this mitigates the hardships faced by those whose contracts have not been renewed. This is a challenging process for everyone involved. I ask you to join me in offering support to our nonrenewed colleagues during this difficult time, and I thank you in advance for your thoughtful participation in our ongoing discussions as we work through this together.