Financially stricken Birmingham-Southern College announced another round of cuts and employee layoffs today, eliminating faculty positions and entire majors from the liberal arts college.
News spread by whispers and through social networking sites as faculty members learned whether their jobs had been cut.
A total of 29 faculty members were given notice that their positions would be eliminated within the next two years. Many of the faculty members cut today were tenured, but tenured and tenure-track faculty members will be given one-year contracts for the upcoming school year.
Altogether five majors were cut from the college’s offerings. Those majors included accounting, computer science, dance, French and German.
One non-tenured faculty member was cut from the math department and three non-tenured faculty were cut from the English department.
This is not the first round of layoffs for BSC. A week ago, the college laid off 51 employees, mostly from non-faculty staff. That cut was a 22 percent reduction in force.
The cuts follow the discovery of deep and long-term financial problems at the college. In recent weeks, BSC faculty members have privately expressed frustration with the administration’s lack of transparency. In particular, faculty and staff were upset that when they had voiced concerns earlier in the fiscal year, they had been falsely assured the college’s financial condition was in good standing.
For the last several years, BSC has undertaken a series of expensive capital projects, including new dormitories, athletic fields and a welcome center. Few, if any, members of the campus community realized that the college was hemorrhaging cash at the same time these projects were underway.
Initially the college administration attributed the financial problems to an accounting snafu related to Pell grants and scholarships. However, as the magnitude of the accounting problems became apparent, the college was no longer able to blame the single mistake. After initial reviews of its financial records, BSC determined it must cut as much as $10 million per year from its budget, or about 20 percent of its $50 million budget.
Still, the college has not explained the nature of the accounting problems, neither to faculty nor alumni, and blowback from the scandal is falling on BSC President David Pollick. On Thursday afternoon, several BSC alumni had formed a BSC President David Pollick Must Go Facebook group. Many members there questioned whether Pollick could lead the college out of its financial crisis or even if the college could survive.
“I, too, would rather not have the need for groups of this nature,” Robert Glasgow said in response to another alumnus. “However, I would also like for my degree to be recognizable in the foreseeable future. As things appear to be going, that’s questionable.
“And, a vote of no confidence can come in many ways.”
(Disclosure: The author is an alumnus of Birmingham-Southern College.)
(Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly reported the college cut five departments. In fact, the college cut five majors, not departments.)
Message to Faculty from Provost Mark Shantz
From: Schantz, Mark S.Sent: Thursday, July 22, 2010 4:28 PMTo: facultySubject:
I write to you this afternoon to share changes that have been made to the academic program at Birmingham-Southern College, changes that impact all of us as a faculty.
During the day today, I have had conversations with faculty from departments across the campus. In these meetings, I have announced the phasing out of academic majors in five fields: Accounting, Computer Science, Dance, French and German. This change is effective with the 2011-2012 academic year. Additionally, our program in Music will also be modified for the 2011-2012 academic year.
Across all areas of the academic program, we will reduce 12 faculty positions in the upcoming academic year, 2010-2011, and 17 faculty positions in the 2011-2012 academic year. Please note that all tenure-track and tenured faculty will be offered contracts in the upcoming 2010-2011 academic year.
There will be a faculty meeting next Thursday, July 29th, 10 a.m., in Stockham Parlor.
For those impacted most immediately by these changes, this will be a most difficult passage. Because of the relationships we have across the campus all of us will be changed. It has been a heart-rending day for us all. I hope for better ones in the months ahead.
Dr. Mark S. Schantz
Professor of History
Statement from BSC President David Pollick
During the past two weeks, Birmingham-Southern has moved forward with some decisions directly tied to addressing the college’s finances. The first phase of the long-term plan to address the financial shortfall discovered this spring and to counter the continuing effects of the current economic downturn was announced last week. This included a reduction in force of staff members, as well as salary and benefit cuts for the remaining faculty and staff that will save approximately $6 million this fiscal year.
Our operating budget, however, is also affected by our academic programs and personnel, and we needed to determine where we could provide budget relief in that area with minimal impact on the overall BSC experience. The college, working to meet the goals set by the Board of Trustees, undertook a thorough examination of all its majors and programs. The examination conducted by the Office of the Provost included evaluating criteria such as relevancy to the liberal arts mission, relative program expense, extent to which the program is connected to the curriculum, the potential for future growth and development, and its impact on current students. From that examination, a recommended course of action was presented first to an ad hoc committee of the college’s Board of Trustees and then to a faculty budget committee. The faculty budget committee did not approve or disapprove the changes, but advised the Board of Trustees and the Provost’s Office on the impact of the suggested academic program changes. The decisions on changes to academic programs and personnel have now been made, and the college will be implementing the following:
* Phasing out five majors: Accounting, Computer Science, Dance, French, and German, effective with the 2011-12 academic year;
* Modification of our Music Program, effective with the 2011-12 academic year; and
* Reduction of 12 faculty positions, effective with the 2010-11 academic year, and 17 faculty positions, effective with the 2011-12 academic year.
All tenured and tenure-track faculty have teaching positions at Birmingham-Southern for the coming academic year. Phasing out the programs over the 2010-11 academic year allows the affected tenured and tenure-track faculty time to pursue employment opportunities elsewhere for the 2011-12 academic year.
We will work with those students majoring in these areas to customize a plan for graduation. It is also very important to note that while students cannot major in these subjects, we will offer courses in them.
In addition, the college is continuing to examine and reduce its budget for adjunct faculty so that more students can take courses taught by full-time Birmingham-Southern faculty.
These academic program changes will provide nearly $3 million in budget relief over the next two years and will directly affect only about 10 percent of the overall student body. While we know these changes will be difficult for many, we do believe that they are the best choices for staying true to the college’s liberal arts mission while achieving financial stability.
Like the many other colleges and universities that have taken these actions in the past year, we have done so in a way that retains the high-quality overall educational experience that our students expect and deserve at Birmingham-Southern. We are now focusing our attention on the upcoming academic year and welcoming our students back to campus in late August, including the fourth largest class of incoming students in our history.