Budget cuts totalling $3.2 million are bearing down upon Quinnipiac, leaving no department or school unscathed.
Interim Provost Jennifer Brown announced the total amount of cuts, which account for about 3.93% of the operating budget, at a faculty senate meeting Monday, Sept. 9, according to Professor Rebecca Bamford, a member of the faculty senate and an associate professor of philosophy. At the meeting, Brown said Quinnipiac fell 570 students short of its enrollment goal for the 2019-20 school year, leaving a significant hole in the budget.
Bamford said the budget cuts will indirectly affect students.
“I think everybody is going to agree that we don’t want to burden students any more than is necessary, but it is in my opinion, it is inevitable that there will be a negative impact on the student experience,” Bamford said. “I just don’t see how you can avoid that. So even though everybody I think is doing the best they possibly can and acting pretty responsibly they will have some negative effects.”
Deans of schools across campus will be forced to make difficult decisions of what aspects of their budgets to cut by this Thursday, Sept. 12. This is when professors will know how they will have to adjust. However, several possibilities were discussed at the faculty senate meeting and in private meetings between deans and their faculty. Bamford said the fast turnaround time for these hard decisions raised concern at the faculty senate meeting.
“We don’t exactly know at this point where the cuts are going to fall and precisely how, but apparently we’ll know by the end of the week,” Bamford said. “Everybody else raised eyebrows in the room, so it’s a fast turn around.”
One effect on the students could be decreased class offerings resulting in larger classes, according to Bamford.
“There’s been a cut to the part time faculty budget,” Bamford said. “It’s not clear at this time how that will affect classes for next semester. We don’t even know yet. But I think if you’re going to cut numbers of part-time faculty, obviously there will be an effect of some kind. So it does affect potentially choice for students, what courses are available potentially class sizes.”
Margarita Diaz, faculty senate member and chair of the department of journalism, was also at the meeting on Monday. She said Brown listed a hiring freeze as another result of the budget shortage. This means open staff positions will not be filled, but open faculty shortages will continue.
Faculty shortages for the 2020-21 school year will continue but Brown will be meeting with the deans of all of the schools in November to discuss next year’s budget, according to Diaz.
Bamford said that the cuts will also target areas such as faculty research, but leave the President Olian’s proposed health and wellness facility untouched.
“My worry was more about pushing ahead with the wellness center compared with funding, things that impact students who are here right now,” Bamford said.
Bamford, who is about to leave on a trip to Amsterdam, Netherlands, is in hopes of getting a publishing deal for a collection of research scholar essays. The proposed cuts will limit her ability to make trips like these that she said ultimately benefit the student experience.
“What was talked about at the meeting was cutting faculty travel budgets, which are fairly minimal anyway frankly, cutting the research budgets which does affect people who run labs for students to do research experience or if we are doing projects that we can think of a way to involve students–that affects students who are here now,” Bamford said.
Molly Yanity, associate professor of journalism, said her money to attend conferences and present research has been eliminated for the year.
The reason for the lower enrollment is not yet clear. Bamford said that at the faculty senate meeting, Brown attributed the shortfall to the lack of new facilities at Quinnipiac as compared with other universities, such as the new health and wellness facility which remains in the budget.
“We have an enrollment shortfall partly because students are choosing to go to places whose facilities have been improved recently–that’s perceived to be attractive to students,” Bamford said. “The idea is that if we can plan this new wellness center and put information about it online, this would be your point of attraction for students.”
Aileen Dever, chair of the department of modern languages, literatures and culture, said the shortfall in enrollment has more to do with trends in New England.
“The lower enrollment does reflect trends in higher education so it wasn’t totally unexpected,” Dever said.
Dever said she is optimistic that the students will not see the effects of the cuts.
“They know that the students are not going to feel the crunch because that’s something we’re going to figure out and we’re going to deal with,” Dever said. “What we need to do, we need to do our homework. We need to figure out what we need to do to attract the best and brightest students to Quinnipiac so that we will continue to stand out as an institution that really does prepare students for success.”
While one possible solution to the problem could be to increase enrollment, the vice president for enrollment management position is currently vacant. Greg Eichhorn left the position in June 2019 and W. Eric Sykes will replace him on Sept. 16.
“One of the solutions would be increasing enrollment and looking to see what other new programs–for example we have a brand new program that professors in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Schweitzer institute are putting together which is the environmental studies program,” Dever said. “This is an area that students might be very interested in where there might be a lot of jobs and future career potential.”
Bamford said Brown explained that tapping into the university’s endowment would not be an option because it would make repaying loans more expensive.
John Morgan, associate vice president for public relations, said the budget cuts would not change the university’s focus on student experience.
“While a smaller class has budget implications, we remain singularly focused on our students’ learning and living experiences,” Morgan said. “To that end, the University is making unprecedented investments in student priorities, faculty and advisor hiring – a total of 26 for this academic year, new academic offerings, and major new facilities that embody the University of the Future.”
Citing the same strategic plan, Bamford said the budget cuts incision into faculty research directly counters the University of the Future promise.
Page nine of the plan reads, “We must support a vibrant intellectual community and invest in the
scholarship and lifelong learning needs of faculty and staff.Faculty and staff must be empowered, incentivized and rewarded for intellectual agility, risk taking and bold innovations. We also must invest in innovative capacity across the university (e.g., in seed grant programs, research infrastructure, faculty and staff development, faculty-student research collaborations, and pedagogical experiments) to test different learning approaches and formats.”
Dever though, remained confident that the cuts will only affect small things like branded pens and pencils.
“If I wanted to get more pens or pencils with the department logo on it, I wouldn’t do that this semester,” Dever said.
However, Bamford was adamant that the effect will be greater.
“I do understand that they’re trying to do the best they can in a difficult situation,” Bamford said. “But for me, there is a direct impact on faculty and on students.”
The Chronicle reached out to President Judy Olian and Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Mark Varholak and will be conducting an interview with President Olian tomorrow, Thursday, Sept. 12.
Stay with The Chronicle for updates on this developing story.