As I promised a couple weeks ago (Letter to Students, May 4), I am emailing you today to keep you in the loop about what is happening in the SOJC and to give you more details about our plan to balance the budget.
First, I want to acknowledge how challenging the budget-balancing process is for our faculty whose contracts are not being renewed, and for you, their students. I have heard from many of you, and I know it is difficult to lose the guidance of a teacher who has served you well. It is because of this impact that I feel it is so important to be clear about where nonrenewals fit into our overall budget plan.
Although we do not yet know 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), as of now, the SOJC has not changed the financial plan we have already put in place.
As I mentioned in my last email, we are working with the Office of the Provost and Academic Affairs to reduce our operating expenses by $1.9 million by 2020. This is necessary because the school’s spending has been greater than our budget allocation for the past two years. Although other colleges and schools also need to reduce their costs, the SOJC’s expenditure growth has outpaced all other schools’, making our process even more challenging.
However, we remain committed to maintaining academic excellence (Schill memo, Jan. 6, 2016) and providing the high-quality education and experiences that will allow you to excel in your chosen professions. In fact, we are basing all our decisions on these priorities.
It is important to know that, because labor costs account for 93 percent of our spending, there is no way to balance the budget without making some reductions in faculty and staff. But because we know these decisions are the ones with the most severe effects on people, we have tried to minimize nonrenewals and to give as much advance knowledge as we can to those who are affected.
To begin the process of balancing the budget, over the next year, the school will attempt to meet these goals:
- Expand our three professional master’s programs.Our goal is to increase enrollment by two students in each of the three professional master’s programs (Journalism, Strategic Communication, and Multimedia Journalism) in 2017–18.
- Review and revise our curriculum.Beginning in fall 2017, we will eliminate sections from some courses that have low enrollment, which will allow us to save money with very little impact on you. A faculty committee is also considering offering refined courses to all majors, adding requirements in each area, and modifying the Gateway series to better prepare you for your careers while generating revenue.
- Non-renew 11 non-tenure-track faculty (NTTF) and reduce the workloads of two.The majority of these nonrenewals are for part-time positions, including four faculty members in Eugene and three in Portland. Full-time non-renewals include one post-doctoral fellowship, two visiting assistant professors, and one NTTF. We are also not refilling the position of someone who is retiring, and we are decreasing the workloads of two other part-time NTTF members. These reductions will result in a cost savings of $400,000.
- Review and revise NTTF workloads.A faculty task force reviewed a proposal to increase the workload of one professor of practice from five courses to six and increasing the workload of one 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.
- Streamline administrative staff services.Following the university’s model of streamlining IT and communication services, the SOJC has already created a shared business center with the College of Design. We are continuing to review other services and support.
By the end of this next academic year, these efforts help us save about $500,000 of the total $1.9 million we need to cut from the budget. The Office of the Provost is also chipping in $800,000 to help us stay on track.
I know that none of this alleviates the hardships faced by your instructors whose contracts have not been renewed. This is a challenging process for everyone involved. I hope to keep the lines of communication open as we work through this together.
I look forward to seeing many of you tonight at the student town hall hosted by my student advisory council, The Panel @ Allen, at 5:30–7 in Allen 141. A panel of SOJC faculty will be on hand to field your questions about the future of media, the importance of experiential learning, and the school’s role in preparing you for the real world. Please join us for pizza and a good discussion! I look forward to hearing what you have to say.
Juan-Carlos Molleda, PhD
Edwin L. Artzt Dean and Professor