Throughout this academic year, the word retrenchment has been floating around the SOU campus. Retrenchment has resulted in the proposed elimination and restructuring of academic departments at Southern Oregon University. Deep cuts in state funding coupled with a decline in student enrollment has caused SOU to fall into negative numbers finically.
In December, President Mary Cullinan made the official announced that SOU would be entering into retrenchment, and so far it has been viewed with mixed emotions from students and faculty.
The provisional plan currently released is just a proposal,soon be finalized, but is still in the 20-day comment period. The students, facility and members of the community have been able to suggest potential alternatives to retrenchment and share their opinion during this time.
One of the most vocal responses is Vigil for the Arts, which was created to raise awareness about the deep academic cuts that SOU is making. Various members of this organization have attended the open forums on retrenchment, addressing their concerns with the university proposed desicion. A blog has even been created, so students and supporters can share their thoughts and stories about what they believe school will lose due to retrenchment.
Virgil for the Arts have also developed a unique protest that has gained recognition by holding “mock funerals” on campus. A eulogy is recited at these mock funerals for the programs potentially lost due to the retrenchment. Students involved with Vigil for the Arts say that this ‘funeral’ raises awareness about how many programs will be lost.
The students behind Vigil for the Arts have many concerns about how retrenchment will affect the school. One student pointed out that nearly a third of the programs at SOU will be cut, and that the art department will be particularly hit hard. One of the major reason behind these academic cuts is because of the shrinking class sizes, but many students have stated that’s why they chose SOU in the first place because of the smaller class sizes.
The issue of shrinking class sizes was addressed in a meeting held on retrenchment earlier this month. The universities responded that this restructuring has been held off for as long as possible, and drops in state and federal funding is forcing this decision.
The majority of SOU funding comes from tuition, and as tuition costs keep rising, state allocations are dropping. SOU administration has stated that the school has tried to protect the academic departments for as long as possible. The school has chosen to target majors with low enrollment and graduation rates. Unfortunately, this put many of the programs in foreign languages, art, and physics at risk. How deep these cuts will go will depend on the amount of state funding to be received.
The students involved with Vigil for the Arts have been very vocal about the cuts. The funeral procession brought attention to how many programs would be lost, and the blog has allowed students to share their stories, and to show how they will be affected. The students are hoping to find a solution that does not involve large cuts to any department. In the face of dropping students enrollment and state funding, this may not be possible.