SOU Board of Trustees hosts listening sessions Thursday and Friday

The entrance to Southern Oregon University at Churchill Hall. Bob Palermini photo/palermini.com
January 19, 2023

In-person comments, questions, welcome about anticipated budget cuts

By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news

With major budget cuts looming, a full slate of Board of Trustee committee meetings are planned Thursday and Friday at Southern Oregon University in Ashland. 

Southern Oregon University’s Board of Trustees will hold a public listening session from 3:45 to 4:45 p.m. on Thursday, Jan. 19, at the SOU campus, with an opportunity for anyone to speak, share comments, or ask questions, including about the university’s “realignment” process currently underway.

Daniel Santos, chair of the SOU Board of Trustees, spoke with Ashland.news via phone before his trip from Salem down to Ashland on Wednesday. Santos, a 1975 SOU graduate himself, has nearly 25 years experience working at the state level in higher education. He’s optimistic about the future of the university despite the daunting task of making upwards of 20% cuts to a $66 million budget, and he wants to hear from the community, students, faculty, and anyone wishing to share their thoughts about the proposed $10 million to $13 million structural deficit.

“What the board desires to do is to have a listening session, given the fact that we’re going through realignment, reimagining the financial situation and future of SOU,” Santos told Ashland.news. “We are very much aware of the town halls and other communications that are taking place between the administration and faculty, staff, and students.

Meetings will take place at the following times:
Thursday, Jan. 19

Noon-3:30 p.m.,  Academic and Student Affairs, Meese Room, Third Floor, Hannon Library

3:45-4:45 p.m., Public listening session with Board of Trustees, DeBoer Room, Third Floor, Hannon Library

5:00-7:00 p.m., Finance and Administration Committee, Meese Room

Friday, Jan. 20

9:30 – 11:30 a.m. Executive, Audit, and Governance Committee, DeBoer Room, 

Noon-5 p.m., Board of Trustees meeting, Meese Room

For more information about the agendas of each meeting, go to governance.sou.edu.

“We as a board wanted to hear firsthand from constituents about their comments and questions, concerns, ideas,” Santos added. “We want to be part of that contribution to transparency.”

He understands the gravity of what will be required by the board: weighing both the difficult and necessary task to assess data that gives “apples to apples” assessment of diverse programs.

“We want to hear from folks as to how they see this playing out, not just for themselves … but how this plays out for the university,” Santos.

Santos emphasized there will be no actions taken on the financial situation.

“We want to make sure that the entire spectrum of SOU has an opportunity to be heard on these matters,” Santos said. 

“All spectrums of the SOU institution should be looked at,” he added. “It’s not going to be coming just from athletics, it’s not just going to come from the administrative side. We want to take a look across all of these things.”

The Board of Trustees is expected to hear a recommendation from SOU President Rick Bailey on March 17 about the plan to move forward, which will include proposed cuts.

“It’ll be our first real glance of a finite set of ideas that the administration is proposing,” Santos said. “But even at that meeting in March, there will be no action.”

A listening session is planned during that March meeting for the public to attend and comment as well.

“While conversations will continue for another month or so when the board comes back to its April meeting, they’ll be what I’d call a final recommendation to the board by the administration and then the board will take action,” Santos said.

That meeting is scheduled for April 21.

“We want to hear from people as to the financial challenges, but also as to what they see as opportunities as we do this,” Santos said.

A student town hall is planned for Feb. 2 and an all-campus town hall on Feb. 16. Each town hall will be held in the Rogue River Room  in the Stevenson Union at SOU.

Santos acknowledges certain challenges to the university’s financial future, but he remains an optimist about the process to move forward.

“It is a big task, and I hope it’s obvious that cuts are painful,” Santos said. “You are giving up something … We’re having to make some of those decisions knowing that any reduction in whatever area will have impact.

“The primary goal for the board is to make sure that these are the best decisions to serve our students, to serve our faculty, staff and administration. As we have said at times, this is the rightsizing of the budget so that we can move ahead — not just more stable, but sustainable.

“I’m optimistic about the future of SOU and that we can do this and have new revenues,” he added.

Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at hollyd@ashland.news.

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Bert Etling

Bert Etling

Bert Etling is the executive editor of Ashland.news. Email him at betling@ashland.news.

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