DULUTH – Dozens of jobs will be eliminated at the University of Minnesota Duluth as leaders seek $5.2 million in budget cuts that will go into effect July 1.
Chancellor Lendley Black said Wednesday that no academic programs will be eliminated. They will not all escape unscathed, however.
The School of Fine Arts will merge with the College of Liberal Arts in a move that Executive Vice Chancellor Fernando Delgado said would “preserve as much of our academic offerings as possible.”
Professor Jamie Ratliff said that with staff cuts and money saved by merging, the School of Fine Arts (SFA), the smallest on campus, is shouldering about $1 million of the budget cuts.
“It was something that really came out of the blue, with little to no consultation with faculty,” she said. “We’ll still be able to support and provide for our students, but we’ll be mourning the loss of our SFA identity.”
Twenty-nine faculty and staff will be cut or reduced, along with 13 graduate teaching assistant positions. In addition, 30 full-time-equivalent positions will be eliminated through closing open positions and early retirements.
The number of people losing their jobs could have been much higher “had we not had the sacrifice of some of our faculty retiring, had we not had the creativity of our deans,” Delgado said at a news conference Wednesday.
Faculty union leader Scott Laderman said that despite fewer actual layoffs than originally feared, “it’s terrible news.”
“This is going to have a meaningful effect on our campus,” he said.
Other program changes include jazz studies dropping from a major to a concentration, and the masters in English program won’t accept new students for two years. Early-childhood studies will be suspended and relaunched in the future.
In all, about 70 students will be directly affected by the program changes, administrators said.
Last month, UMD students sent a letter blasting administrators for smearing “the public perception of what it means to study the fine arts.”
Black said Wednesday that leadership is committed to preserving and promoting fine arts offerings.
“We have not talked about nor will I support a drastic change in the three departments that make up the School of Fine Arts in addition to the Tweed Museum,” he said.
UMD has faced a budget deficit for many years as enrollment has declined, and the school of 10,858 students is now being forced to make drastic cuts to balance its finances.
In a letter sent to UMD this fall, University of Minnesota President Joan Gabel and finance chief Brian Burnett wrote that it would be “very difficult to solve a challenge of this magnitude” by chipping away at budget reductions.
Faculty members and students have argued for years that the university system shortchanges the Duluth campus — it gets half the per-student funding the Twin Cities campus receives.
State Rep. Liz Olson, DFL-Duluth, joined that chorus Wednesday.
“There are clear inequity issues within the University of Minnesota system, and UMD’s funding falls short compared to other campuses,” said the UMD alumna and House Majority Whip. “Looking ahead, I’m hopeful President Gabel and the Board of Regents can address this to ensure UMD can maintain its standard of excellence for students, our region and the entire state.”
The $5.2 million cut — roughly 3% of the operating budget — will balance the university’s discretionary finances for the first time since 2011, and Black said it puts UMD on “a much firmer financial foundation.”
“One of the potential benefits of doing this now is it opens us up for more support for the system,” he said. “It also gets this budget cloud off of us.”