History courses to be reduced to counteract budget shortfall
As university administrators address a two-year estimated $20 million budget deficit, the elimination and reduction of courses is a way the Department of History is saving money.
Gregory Smith, first-year chairman of the Department of History, said his department plans to cut 16 class sections. The reductions will likely include cuts to course sections of Latin American history, African American history and Native American history.
Fixed-term faculty usually teach four classes per semester, which equals eight per year, Smith said. The department of history is cutting two fixed-term faculty positions, which equals 16 sections.
The department will lose one tenure position and one fixed-term position from its base budget, Smith said. The tenure line has been vacant since 2014, and CMU has denied the department’s requests to hire a new regular faculty member for the position. The position, which is in 19th century American history, was funded at a rate that allowed the department to hire the equivalent of one fixed-term faculty.
Smith said that is why the department will cut two fixed-term faculty members. Some history courses are taught by fixed-term faculty members. This semester, 28 courses in history are taught by regular faculty, with 26 taught by fixed-term faculty. Smith said this semester is unusual, with three regular faculty members on sabbatical.
The history department has reduced its faculty from 22 when Smith started in 2006 to 16 in 2017. The department will add an extra regular faculty next year with the hiring of a Native American historian to teach Native American history.
In a March 21 address to the Academic Senate, University President George Ross told academic senators that the budget deficit have been mischaracterized as a “crisis” by the news media.
However, Smith said it is a crisis.
“For anyone that has lost this much and has to cancel 16 courses like I do next year, it is a crisis,” Smith said.
The College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences has been asked to cut 10 percent, Smith said. CHSBS generates the largest revenue of any college of campus with more than $85 million in total revenue, according to the 2016-17 CMU operating budget.
“It’s like cutting back on the most efficient factory the university has," Smith said.
Provost Michael Gealt said he values the history department, and said it is a major doctoral program on campus. Under the university’s RCM budget-model, dollars are distributed to deans who have freedom to distribute those wherever they want. Those monies are proportional to credit hours they generate.
CHSBS is not generating credit hours like it did 10 years ago, Gealt said. In 2006-07, CHSBS generated about 140,000 student credit hours. In 2015-16, its most recent update, it generated 112,000 — a 28,000 difference.
The College of Science and Engineering generated 111,000 student credit hours in 2006-07 to 109,000 in 2015-16 — down 2,000.
“That’s why one college has seen a bigger decline in dollars than the other college,” Gealt said. “The College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences still gets more dollars because they’re generating more credit hours.”
Ray Christie, senior vice provost for Academic Administration, said when course sections are eliminated, so is the revenue fixed in that section.
Graduate assistants play a vital role in the history department and will most likely be retained for next year, Smith said. However, with two fixed-term faculty members set to lose their positions for next year and a possible reduction or cut of University Program and 300-level courses in the department, Smith said the faculty in his department are devastated.
“Overall, the morale side is hard," Smith said. "There are very little indications of support that the university and administration believes in what our college does.”