Student town hall planned for mid-January on likely program and staffing cuts
By Holly Dillemuth, Ashland.news
First-year students at Southern Oregon University will likely bear the brunt of the impact to students from upcoming cuts to programs and staffing in 2023, university President Rick Bailey said in an interview with Ashland.news Thursday.
Bailey said he thinks that it is likely that some upper classmen will be affected as well by decisions the university will be implementing.
A “town hall” for students has been added to the calendar on Tuesday Jan. 17 to hear student concerns and comments. Bailey has hosted town halls for university staff and faculty on Nov. 1 and Dec. 2, with additional faculty and staff discussions set for Jan. 12 and Feb. 16.
Programmatic cuts, stemming from a need to realign a $13-$14 million structural shortfall by 2024, will take place in the next 14 months, with the impacts including probable program and staffing cuts.
Bailey said SOU will work with students to ensure they are able to have a clear pathway to graduation.
“We do have a responsibility to the students so even if there are academic programs that affect students, we will have the responsibility to make sure that they have a pathway to their degree,” he said. “That’s either by us teaching out or by us partnering with other institutions to provide that, but we will make sure that we are very diligent with everyone who is affected by those decisions.”
When asked about impacts to athletics, Bailey said no decisions will be made that will create violations of Title IX, a federal civil rights law passed in 1972.
“We will be very careful as we make decisions on athletics that are respectful of the agreements we have with our colleague institutions in the two conferences,” Bailey said. “There are some legal statutory and contractual relationships that we need to respect as we do this work.”
Bailey also emphasized that no academic or athletic program would be “untouchable” in terms of review.
“I think that does a disservice to everything that we do,” Bailey said. “We really do need to explore everything,” he said. “There is nothing … that is off the table automatically.”
Recommendations for modifying the university’s budget will be announced in March, with a final decision announced in April.
“Our target is to have that transformation completed by the summer of 2024 so there is a timeline established,” Bailey said.
When asked how prior retrenchments compare to the current financial situation, Bailey said, “The difference with this is is the approach we’re taking. I think that this, perhaps because of the larger structural challenge that we’re facing, is that we’re really looking at this more holistically than we have in the past and not exploring an across-the -oard, percentage-type cut, but really looking deeply at everything we do.”
Bailey acknowledged that anxiety levels are high on campus regarding coming changes.
“Understandably so,” Bailey said, “there is a lot of anxiety right now, particularly with our faculty and staff, and we need to be respectful of that. That is why we are not dragging this on for 12 months. We are really tackling this and giving it the attention it deserves.”
Bailey hopes to hear directly from students in the Jan. 17 town hall.
“The goal there is to really interface with a student focus,” Bailey said. “Anything they want to talk about will be fair game.”
Reach Ashland.news reporter Holly Dillemuth at firstname.lastname@example.org.