Students React to Financial Changes

Written by Remy Robertson

Within the rising intensity of the global economic crisis, reforms are being made in every aspect of life.

Sometimes that includes more walking and less driving or cutting back spending on superfluous items.

President Schrum’s campus-wide email outlining the proposed fiscal reforms for Southwestern University has me wondering on the actual economic impact some of them will provide.

Also, the question arises: why are we choosing to reform these aspects of fiscal responsibility?
First off, the most perplexing aspect of the policies outlined in the email concerns the hiring, freezing and firing of faculty positions.

President Schrum states that no “new faculty positions” will be hired; no “increase [in] salary”; and a “continuation of the 9-month hiring freeze on staff vacancies.”

These policies are not unorthodox in the collegiate world: both President Powers from UT Austin and President Leebron from Rice University have recently issued memos describing their strategies on freezing staff vacancies as well as a reduction in president, vice president, and dean salaries.
Despite SU’s similarity to Rice and UT Austin’s freezing reforms, SU does not have the luxury of tightening the requirements on the quality of professors. President Leebron mentions “new faculty must meet the highest standards of their discipline or profession” while President Powers says UT-Austin is trying to create increasing “merit-based salary” for qualified professors.

Obviously since Southwestern is so small, the university does not have the dexterity to provide compensation to more qualified professors than others.

My question is what does this freeze do for the quality of professors at Southwestern, and more specifically, how does this affect certain departments?

I’m no economist, but maybe some helpful insight would occur with an analysis of the sizes of departmental staff to majoring students. With this, maybe the University can “tighten” how many professors are in certain departments based off the need.

For example, I’ve recently heard that kinesiology is one of the largest departments on campus with something on the order of 18 faculty members. 18?!

The business department has 10 full-time professors with seven visiting professors.
I want to know how much demand is needed for these 17 business professors and eighteen kinesiology professors: that is, can only ten professors in each department provide classes for all the students?

Hypothetically speaking, if reductions in faculty were made—in order to save money—the famous teacher-to-student ratio would increase. Southwestern, as well as liberal arts colleges across the nation, pride themselves on their small class sizes and discussion groups. Is this really something we want to sacrifice?

Although I wonder if there are any superfluous faculty positions that ought to be cut in times like these, I realize that this would affect the teacher-to-student ratio as well as the ability to hold more students in a class size.

It is very noticeable that the university is making great strides to keep this ratio small: otherwise the University would be increasing student acceptance for the new entering class by much more than 33 students (the jump from “1,232” to “1,265” students outlined in the email).

Southwestern has recently opened up the application process to an “Early Action” option. This option has increased a substantial number of applications to Southwestern.

If the university decided to increase more students, they could do so without having to impose such a magnanimous tuition increase as well as the freezing of faculty positions. But they are not. They are increasing tuition and freezing faculty positions in order to keep some of the fundamental features of Southwestern University secure: that includes the teacher-to-student ratio, accountability of students in the class room, personal relationships with professors, a more engaging academic experience and the “discussion-based” classroom.

In a nutshell, I’m very impressed with President Schrum’s fiscal restraints.

Granted, neither I nor many other students will adapt well financially to the increased tuition rates.
I am impressed, however, that the university is making all necessary cuts in order to keep the fundamental basics of Southwestern secure.

Without this, Southwestern could increase students in order to trade off the financial issues, start lagging in the quality of professors, and decrease the intellectual tenets of the campus by lowering the SAT requirements. But they are not.

It’s understandable to see how tough it will be to pay for Southwestern University with the increased tuition, but in reality we are paying for a more valuable experience in our day and age.
I urge all students to participate in the Student Forum, Faculty Meeting and Staff Affairs Council to become more engaged in what our administration is doing financially.

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