Many changes will take place in the 2009-10 academic year due to the economy. As a result of SU’s reduced endowment ($341 million to $220 million) from the decline in investment markets, budget changes within the university were inevitably called for. Among those budget changes is the continuation of the nine-month hiring freeze, negatively affecting expenses allotted for visiting professors and causing a halt in new staff openings.
There is increased concern for the quality of education at SU because of the rumored rise in the number of students in classes and reduction in number of classes offered. While the endowment is still high and the university will continue to thrive in the years to come, the sharp decrease remains a legitimate cause for concern and prompted some quick changes.
“I feel that the hiring freeze will certainly negatively affect the educational experience here at SU. The class sizes will definitely go up, not to mention people losing their jobs. I feel that there are certain other areas of the budget that should have been cut. This move by the administration seems like just the simplest and least thought out way to go about lowering expenses” first-year Andrew Dornon said.
Not only are visiting professors not being hired back, non-essential administrative travel expenses are being cut from numerous departments. This reduces the amount of professional conferences professors are allowed to take students to, and the effect to which the cut in travel expenses affects the educational experience is unclear. However, many professors have insisted that those changes do not affect the quality of what happens in the classroom.
“I personally see these changes as something that will hurt the school’s ability to get tenure track professors. Some of those visiting professors could become established, and we’re cutting back a lot of potential for them to stay here and enrich the community,” junior Luis Reyes said.
The lack of a salary increase for current professors (except those currently in tenure track positions) and reduction of visiting professor expenses could have a negative effect in the future. Class sizes may go up as a result of a larger incoming 2013 class, though the effect of this increase will vary from department to department. Departments that have a low number of professors, such as the communication studies department, may suffer the most.
“Southwestern will lose much of the charm of being a small school with a good student teacher ratio,” Reyes said. “Though it’s not like the administration really listens to students’ ideas about professors and keeping class sizes small.”
“I doubt class sizes will be affected that much because the classes that are traditionally large will still remain that way and the ones with less students will probably remain that way too,” sophomore Sam Marsh said.
Not only are the academics being affected by the changes, but the athletic department has dealt with numerous changes as well.
“Our biggest expense is travel,” Associate Athletic Director Ronda Seagraves said. “We are working right now with the SCAC to reduce travel costs. Though we are being affected just like everyone else in the conference, the quality of the athletic experience for the student-athletes has not gone down, and we have been lucky in many areas, since we haven’t had to cut any sports and with the location of the school with regards to travel. Right now we’re simply trying to be frugal and make smart decisions when it comes to travel.”
“As far as the hiring freeze, the effect on the athletic department is most seen with assistant coaching positions,” said Seagraves. “Luckily, we have no new openings that need to be filled within the nine-month period (with the exception of head swimming coach). We are working hard to prevent the hiring freeze from having a negative effect on recruiting.”