Faculty concerned due to budget cuts, immigration ban and future of research
Senators in the Academic Senate expressed deep concern about pending budget cuts expected in each department to manage the $10.6 million deficit facing Central Michigan University.
Faculty members united at the Academic Senate meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 7, on issues affecting academia on a local and national scale. In addition to voicing budget deficit distress, the senate also agreed that as academic representatives, they are socially responsible to address federal policies affecting students, science and higher education.
After the Budget Priorities Committee presented deficit updates, Sen. Tracy Collins asked several questions regarding faculty concerns.
Collins felt her questions were left unanswered by the administration.
“(The budget cuts) are especially important to those in the English department because we have been fiscally responsible and not increased our budget (more than) 1 percent (during the past) 10 years,” Collins said. “But yet not only our department, but our college is continually asked by the university to cut and cut, to fund programs that don’t service all students.”
Collins said she understands every college and department is being affected by the deficit and needs to make sacrifices. However, she said some departments are expected to cut more than others.
“There’s less money coming in so everyone kind of has to tighten their belts, and we get that,” Collins said. “Unfortunately, (with) what the administration is asking, some people (must) tighten their belts more than others.”
At the meeting, Provost Michael Gealt read two statements he felt the Senate needed to hear regarding federal policy and academia.
He read an editorial from Science Magazine, which discussed how the transition in presidency has raised concerns for the scientific community. The article states that certain White House administration priorities will control how science is directed, funded and used.
“I am sure that every learning society is expressing much the same thing,” Gealt said. “We at the university have spent our lives developing data that should be used to inform decisions and it is very difficult to watch as people are using ‘alternative facts.’”
The second statement concerned the executive order banning international travel issued by President Donald Trump, that if reinstated, Gealt said could have serious consequences for students and faculty at CMU.
Gealt’s statement came from the Association of Chief Academic Officers. It states professionals in the higher education community have a responsibility to each other, and their campuses, to be a voice for fairness and equal treatment for immigrants — those who have contributed greatly to the academic world.
In reaction to Gealt’s announcements, Sen. Mary Senter asked for a motion from the senate to endorse these statements. It passed unanimously.
“When you're sitting in a collective body, one way to express concern is to pass motions,” Senter said. “The senate represents the academic side of the university. (While) talking as individuals is often important, talking as a collective body is often the way to go.”
Senter said there is no way to have a modern society without a commitment to science.
“We all have to do things,” she said. “There are a variety of things going on which I think really requires citizen response. We are also citizens of this university community.”