SOU Enters Secondary Phase of Retrenchment

By Hugo Agosto

On Thursday, February 6, 2014 SOU President Mary Cullinan released a “Provisional Retrenchment Plan” after a 20-day comment period.  Southern Oregon University made a call for retrenchment at the beginning of the 2013-14 school year, proposing large budgetary cuts through the removal of various academic programs and the termination of staff. This was done in reaction to the university debt of approximately five million dollars along with a decrease in enrollment for the year.

This plan detailed briefly how the University arrived at this point of retrenchment, and detailed their strategic plans to solve these finical woes based on a best, medium and worst-case scenario.

The plan later went onto stating what programs were to be eliminated in each scenario. Some of the programs discussed include Art BFA/Art History, the Business co-majors (chemistry, physics and music), the French program, Physics and International Studies. Various other minors, certificates and departmental concentrations were also proposed for elimination in each scenario.

For students that have already declared the major, or current students that will declare the major by March 15, 2014 there is a “Teach-Out” plan set in place, so current students may finish out their desired major, minor, certificate or concentration. For students who are majoring in any of these programs, their required courses for their program will be taught by remaining departmental faculty, online or potentially doing courses through other Oregon universities.

Along with these program cuts, five faculty members will be eliminated. Major reorganizing of academic affairs, unpaid furlough days and internal administration overhead assessment will also occur in hopes of eliminating unnecessary cost.

SOU is hoping that these eliminations and changes within the university will put them back into positive financial standing.

If these large cuts do not return SOU to positive numbers or if they go further into debt, there is a “very worst case scenario” plan on the table. The programs that may then be cut include several of the masters programs as well as undergraduate majors with fewer than sixty students and majors that have seen a decline in enrollment.

The programs that were proposed for elimination were based on number of current majors declared as of fall term of 2013, class sizes and the graduation rate of students in each major over five years. Data from previous prioritization reports was also examined in determining what programs may be cut.

The finalization of this plan will also include readjustments in finical allocations to any remaining academic programs, the elimination of various faculty/ staff and the realignment of program curriculum to meet university goals.

According to the “Provisional Retrenchment Plan,” the current issues addressed through retrenchment showed up in part of a larger planning process that began roughly three years ago. University debt has only pushed this idea of academic downsizing and reconstruction to a more urgent state.

The plan stated that “we are budgeting for the worst case scenario, but finical plans will be amended as more information becomes available.”

The timeline put out with this announcement indicated that the finalized retrenchment plan will be completed by March of 2014 with the finalized report on fall term enrollment retention rate completed by November of 2014.

According to the State of the University address Mary Cullinan urges everyone to “all work together through this process and remain positive in our services to SOU.”

Public comments can be submitted to the e-mail address declarecomments@sou.edu up until March 6, 2014. There will be various forums available for anyone interested to attend during this secondary comment phase.

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