Over 300 faculty, staff and students filled Stotler Lounge in Memorial Union on MU’s campus to attend a budget forum led by MU Interim Chancellor Garnett Stokes on Monday afternoon.
Every chair was occupied, and people stood in the back of the room for the duration of the two-hour forum to hear Stokes discuss the short-term proposed plans for the 2017-2018 budget.
Stokes spoke about the 12 percent cuts across all departments, including 350 to 400 position reductions at MU.
She estimated that less than 100 people in sitting positions would be laid off, and the rest of the reductions would be done through retirements and not filling currently vacant positions.
She also cited the need to consolidate operation space, postpone some renovation and improvement projects, and reorganize academic and administrative roles.
Stokes took questions from those present at the forum through note cards and online through a web portal. Many questions were centered on specifying what a 12 percent cut would look like across the board.
Some audience members asked about leaders on MU’s campus taking salary cuts to help offset expenses. Stokes said that was not a viable plan because the school hired leaders at competitive rates and needs to retain them.
“As a strategy, in the long run, it’s not been found to be the most effective strategy for really thinking about the institution’s future,” said Stokes.
Stokes also spoke about non-tenure track faculty and their important role in departments across MU. She said non-tenure track faculty who have already received a contract renewal will not be impacted by the projected layoffs.
Stokes says no information about layoffs and who might be affected will be released before the final UM system budget presentation June 2.
Audience members also asked about enrollment for the next school year, and MU’s plans to increase enrollment. Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Pelema Morrice said there is already research that has shown why enrollment has declined.
“The vast number of our undergraduate enrollment concerns are closely tied to some of our public perception issues throughout the state and throughout the country,” said Morrice.
Morrice said it might be time for MU to think about a new way to measure success that isn’t simply increasing enrollment numbers.
Beyond the immediate budget, Stokes said future plans for re-imagining what MU could look like as a campus include reviewing the graduate student tuition waiver, research incentives and academic programs, as well as overall administrative structure.
Stokes said she was encouraged by the MU community’s engagement.
“It makes me optimistic for where we’re headed, though I don’t want to diminish in any way the tough things we’re gonna have to do to get there,” said Stokes.
There is a second and final budget forum Tuesday before Stokes and other committee members present a finalized budget to UM System President Mun Choi on Friday.