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First draft of potential budget cuts released

Photo illustration by Antelope Staff

UNK’s Faculty Advisory Committee received the first draft of a budget reduction model meant to address the university’s $4.3 million shortfall. The draft proposed a reduction in force of 33 positions and degree eliminations in 14 programs. 

Julie Shaffer, interim senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, said the Chancellor’s cabinet looked at a lot of things when creating the proposal. This included student-to-faculty ratio, student credit hour production, number of graduates and number of majors.

“(We) tried to find the places that would impact the fewest people,” Shaffer said. “That’s what went on the original list. But just because you’re small doesn’t mean you’re not needed. So that’s why we’re looking further now.”

Some of the proposed degree eliminations on the draft include theater, music performance, journalism, sports communication, geography and recreation management.

Of the 33 positions proposed for reduction in force, the most affected departments include music with five, theater with four and English with four.

There are 330 faculty positions when all are filled. Shaffer said she doesn’t have a final count for fall yet.

Shaffer said that students should know that the current proposal is a draft and not a plan. She said the copy on YikYak couldn’t have been right because it didn’t say draft on it.

The Faculty Advisory Committee is looking at the proposal and will submit a response to the senior vice chancellor by Oct. 25. The committee held its first two meetings on Sept. 25 and 26 and will continue to meet weekly.

In an email, Derek Boeckner, chair of the committee, said the committee is starting to collect, “data from the departments who would be affected by the proposal.” He sent an email to faculty asking for feedback on the current proposals to help guide their recommendations to the cabinet.

Students can also reach out to Boeckner with their input.

“If students would like to send me feedback about how the proposal would affect them or future UNK students, I would be happy to collect and share it with the Faculty Advisory Committee,” Boeckner said. “Additionally, I encourage them to work with their student government representatives to add their voice to the conversation through that channel.”

The committee’s recommendations back to the cabinet must match the same reduction amount of $3 million from UNK’s Academic Affairs division. These recommendations are advisory. 

According to the budget reduction model, authority for the final decision lies with Chancellor Doug Kristensen. 

Shaffer said the administration is working to be more transparent.

“We’re trying to be more open and honest that this is affecting all of us,” Shaffer said. “It’s not the administration versus the faculty. Everybody is in this together. People can offer suggestions, and we can work together to try to figure out how to make this cut without decimating the university.”

Boeckner said he understands the concerns of current students in the programs listed in the draft.

“We don’t know the final version of the cuts, but there will be plans in place to ensure each affected student is able to complete their degree,” Boeckner said.

Following the committee’s recommendations to the cabinet, a campus forum will be held in November. The plan will be submitted to the university system’s president’s office by Dec. 1.

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Jenna Heinz
Jenna Heinz, Reporter
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