President Cullinan Announces Retrenchment
By Shannon Houston
President Mary Cullinan has announced that Southern Oregon University will officially be entering retrenchment in order to make up for budget shortfalls the university is facing. The official announcement was made at a public forum Thursday morning in the Hannon Library.
Entering retrenchment will involve the re-opening of faculty contracts to allow for reduction and potential elimination of programs.
“Retrenchment is the only option for SOU,” said Cullinan, according to a press release provided from the university. “It will enable us to sustain and advance our university, offer our students a high quality, affordable education, and serve our regional mission. The new landscape offers less certainty about enrollment and state funding, and a greater certainty that only through affordable tuition can we keep SOU accessible for Oregonians. We need resources to support and enhance in-demand degree programs and help students stay in school and earn a degree.”
The university is looking to make up a shortfall of more than $4 million over the next three years, and entering retrenchment will contribute largely to that sum. Cullinan’s formal announcement followed the end of a commentary period that began in November designed to gauge public reaction to her initial suggestion of retrenchment after the “State of the University” address on November 5.
Cullinan’s Thursday announcement signals the next phase of the retrenchment process, which is to create a draft plan of programs that may face cuts or elimination. The goal is to determine where cuts can be made that will help the university’s financial situation while still preserving academic needs and enrollment priorities.
“Losing valued faculty members will be the hardest part of this process,” said Cullinan. “Because of the length and nature of this process, those whose programs face reduction or elimination will know well in advance, so they will have preparation time and help from SOU with their transition.”
To accompany Cullinan’s announcement is another commentary period lasting fifteen university days that will end on January 16. Comments are encouraged and can be submitted via the State of the University website.
“SOU is incredibly important to present and future generations of students,” said Cullinan. “Our university is vital to this region and to the state of Oregon. We need to do what is best for the short and long term. This means cutting low-enrollment, low-demand programs and retargeting resources so that SOU remains affordable and provides the programs student need most.”