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The Antelope

Programs prepare for wind down to elimination

Photo by Jenna Heinz / Antelope Staff

In November, UNK officials announced a plan to eliminate nine academic degrees and 24.5 faculty positions to combat the $4.3 million deficit. Faculty will receive notice of their position’s elimination by the end of the semester on May 21, 2024.

The departments facing cuts have already begun to change how they operate.

“Our functions are being filled amazingly by fewer people, but that’s not sustainable,” said Sharon O’Connell Campbell, chair of the music, theatre and dance department. 

Of the 24.5 eliminated faculty lines, 14 are vacant and will not be refilled. These lines are not included in the budget for the university’s upcoming fiscal year starting on July 1. This includes six positions that are presently unfilled, with two positions in English and one each in art, communications, modern languages and physics and astronomy. Retirements and voluntary separations make up the other eight of the eliminated positions with two each in math and music, and one each in communications, cyber systems, modern languages and philosophy. The other 10.5 faculty lines are open and have not been finalized.

The university’s administration is creating a plan to allow currently enrolled students to finish their degrees in the next one or two years but are no longer enrolling students in those programs. Faculty in those departments will have at least through the 2024-25 academic year before they must vacate their role or will stay until students fulfill their graduation requirements. 

The Board of Regents voted to eliminate theatre, geography and recreation management in February. The six other degrees in November’s recommended plan did not require a vote by the Board of Regents and will still be eliminated. These degrees were chosen because they do not meet the Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education’s enrollment requirements. The CCPE oversees programs at every university in the state and addresses statewide funding issues.

“Right now, obviously, we’re going through an uncomfortable sequence where we have exploding enrollment in some areas and difficulties with enrollment in others,” said Paul Twigg, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences. 

These cuts have already created administrative and staffing challenges. Faculty across campus are having to do more with less. Both staff and students are working to adapt to the operational changes from faculty losses. 

In the theatre department, administrators said they feel constricted in their ability to serve students timely and are scrambling to make sure sections are offered when students can take them. 

“At first, our mentality was kind of down in the dumps, but now we’re all kind of in a mindset of how can we move forward in the best way possible,” said Bethany Rother, a sophomore theatre student.

Administrators are planning and combining programs to create a common core of courses before splitting into different areas of study through an emphasis. This is to ensure the university’s current degrees and faculty are maintained through any future budget cuts.

“We’re already seeing some new ideas evolve from this that could help with enrollment, that could bring in new students in kind of re-envisioned areas,” said Todd Gottula, UNK director of communications and marketing. 

University employees are working to save parts of the recreation management program through a combination with another degree. Administrators are also making changes in the communications department to protect those programs from future cuts.

The plan addresses the shortfall through July 1, 2025, and it identifies $1.3 million out of the $2 million goal. Administrators are still working to identify the rest of the money to meet their goal, but there will be no more degree or faculty cuts through the 2024-25 academic year.

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