Town Hall Feb. 16, 2023, Recap

Before President Bailey elaborated on his Realignment plan, he prefaced the meeting with the unfortunate things that happened to Student President Alicia Gerrity. In spite of what happened, President Gerrity encouraged the SOU community to find the light in each other and work together as a team. 

President Bailey states the need for the university to sustain itself, not just now, but for the university’s future. Throughout the Town Hall, President Bailey continues to state the plan at the moment is a work-in-progress; “It’s the best thing that I have right now, but we will still continue to get inputs, recommendations, what we are not seeing.” 

“The challenge for us is also an opportunity; what can we do structurally to actually fix the problem so that we’re not here two years from now?”

Rather than provide small fixes and tweaks to the university to maintain revenue, President Bailey plans to create a way to generate enough revenue to support the university, outside of tuition. 

“Revenue is tied almost exclusively to Full Time Equivalent enrollment; it’s equated to tuition. The number of students here is growing slightly, but there are students taking fewer courses. That means a slightly smaller Full Time Equivalence (FTE) SOU is doing this better than almost anyone in the state– I have colleagues in other universities that are scrambling because their enrollment and retention has really taken a hit. We haven’t done that, but the trend is pretty clear.”

While President Bailey is having the Realignment Plan checked out by The Board, he states,

“I can’t promise that we’re going to get it right. I am not the world’s best leader or thinker. All of us as leaders at this university are flawed, we’re imperfect decision makers. All I can promise is that we’re going to do the best with these guiding principles.”

The plan is fallible, but there is room to discuss new solutions. 

The Realignment plan aims to save income utilizing philanthropic investments, reimagining the university’s grant structure, reducing workload for faculty and staff via Workday, and by making cuts to the university’s budget across the board; from Finance & Administration to Academic Affairs and Athletics. 27 Faculty jobs, 30 classified jobs, and 25 unclassified jobs will be cut.

“It’s not lost on me how hard this is. We’ve got to get off this hamster wheel, and we can. I wouldn’t be doing this and I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t in my heart know that we are going to thrive long term. We owe it not just to the students that are here now, but to the eighth grader 20 miles down the road that we may be the school for that person, but if that person can’t afford us, then I think then we’re lost.” said President Bailey.

While President Bailey’s plan aims to increase revenue and reduce expenses without increasing student tuition, there are some issues that arise:

What happens to degrees/programs that are affected by staff cuts?

How do students manage the loss of programs/faculty?

What happens to the communities behind each of the affected programs?

How will SOU maintain a strong community among students, faculty, and beyond in the Ashland community and the Rogue River Tribes?

SOU members such as Brent Florendo and Jesse Purkerson were vocal with their worries for the university and President Bailey’s Realignment plan.

“I’ve heard your planning and your strategies, and as an Indigenous person, and in your answer, I’d like to hear, what was the conversation about maintaining the relationship built with the tribes here?” said Brent Florendo.

“Where is the plan? What are any of these departments going to do? I didn’t see anything on any of these screens other than money? Yes, it can’t function without money, I get it, but they are promised an education. I was told in my meeting, ‘They’ll get a degree.’ They’ll get a degree, but not an education.” said Jesse Purkerson.

Times at the university are far from calm, but in the midst of this chaos, it is important to focus our efforts together for a solution. While situations may seem beyond our control, we still have our community and our voice to make a change.

The next Campus Town Hall Meeting will be March 9th at 10 am in the Rogue River Room. President Bailey and SOU’s Executive leadership will give their final input on the Realignment Plan.

New information was released in regards to the Theatre department.

The two-faculty set to be laid off are Jesse Purkerson and Mike Stanfill. These layoffs will not take effect until after the plan is approved and won’t come into effect until the end of 2024. Students currently pursuing degrees that will be affected by the Realignment plan will still have their degrees taught out. 

The Theatre department is devising a plan for its future after the faculty is gone, but nothing is set in stone.

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