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UM Faculty Voice Concerns Over Proposed Job Cuts

A sign seen at last week's meeting for faculty feedback on UM President Engstrom's plan to cut 201 jobs because of declining enrollment.
Eric Whitney
A sign seen at Tuesday's meeting for faculty feedback on UM President Engstrom's plan to cut 201 jobs because of declining enrollment.

Today is the deadline University of Montana President Royce Engstrom has set for public comments on his proposal to cut 201 jobs because of declining enrollment. Those comments are due at 5:00 p.m. But last night, the UM Faculty Senate met and voiced some of their concerns.

President Engstrom was in attendance as professors asked questions, made accusations and responded to the job cut announcement he made last Tuesday.

Dave Beck teaches in the Native American studies department.

"The campus seems, from students, faculty and staff that I’ve visited with, to be in kind of a state of fear right now," Beck said.

Several professors asked Engstrom for more information on why he came to the conclusions that he did — that 52 faculty positions and 149 staff positions will be cut, with most of the cuts coming in humanities departments like political science, journalism and English.

Professor Dave Beck:

"There’s an impression that seems well founded from my perspective, the humanities and the social science are almost being thrown under the bus here."

President Engstrom maintained his position that the proposed cuts are focused on programs that have seen declining enrollment in recent years. He says the school will strengthen areas he says are poised for growth, like health care, data science and business.

Several faculty members said they’re concerned about the cuts pitting academic departments against one another.

The faculty senate took no formal action last night. President Engstrom says he, administrators and union leaders will work on finalizing what he calls the school’s structural adjustment in December and that affected faculty and staff will get the final word on their jobs in January.

Eric Whitney is NPR's Mountain West/Great Plains Bureau Chief, and was the former news director for Montana Public Radio.
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