As MU faces a crossroad, administrators seek input
COLUMBIA - Following the announcement of a 12 percent university-wide budget cut, the University of Missouri hosted its first budget forum on Monday to address concerns and seek input.
From enrollment to employees to university buildings, administrators are looking make changes in order to stay operational.
Interim Chancellor Garnett Stokes said the budget is finalized but not approved, so there is still time for input.
"We are all in this together," Stokes said when addressing concerns that only the academic side of the university would feel the effects of the budget cuts.
On June 2, the final budget details will be released.
However, there are a few issues the university knows it needs to address. These items include the of administration and academic programs, graduate student tuition waivers and how research is rewarded.
Those in attendance were able to submit their questions online and through paper. The forum received more than 150 questions. However, for some in attendance this format was not helpful.
"I think by consolidating questions and only doing it online, it was actually, if not silencing, then trying to tone police or tone down the responses and questions of faculty, staff, students, and workers,“ Andrew Hutchinson, a recent MU graduate said.
Hutchinson, who plans to attend MU for another degree, was interested to see who would be included in the talks and what the future of the university looked like. He said he walked away with a lot of unanswered questions.
“Even though they tried to play the family rhetoric of you know, ‘we’re all in this together’, it was kind of clear that some jobs and money is on the table and some is not on the table,” Hutchinson said.
The university said department proposals for possible elimination of positions are currently being reviewed. The university said it hopes to be able to provide a two week notice or longer to any faculty that will be affected. At this time, the number of layoffs is unknown, but the university said it anticipates less than 100.
In answering concerns of the future for non-tenured faculty, Stokes reassured those in attendance the university will honor renewals
Stokes said she doesn't think the enrollment issue is going to turn around overnight.
Vice Provost of Enrollment Management Pelema Morrice, echoed this reality.
"It's clear from what we learned thus far that the vast majority of our undergraduate enrollment concerns are closely tied with public perception issues throughout the state and throughout the country," Morrice said.
Morrice posed the question of whether growth is the strategy the university wants to anchor on or if a new metric for defining success is needed.
The university said it received around 400 fewer applications for graduate school this year. However, Stokes said MU is not alone in the challenges it faces, and university budgets across the nation are decreasing.
"Higher education is changing at an aggressive pace," Stokes said.
Stokes emphasized the need to continuously strengthen the MU brand to compete against other top institutions.
The university will continue to evaluate its structure and finances in the coming months.
In addition to seeking input, Stokes said the university plans to form committees as it evaluates where to make changes.
There is also an online budget suggestion box for those who cannot make it to the forums.
The second forum will be Tuesday, May 15 at 9:30 in Memorial Union.