MSU Moorhead: budget cutting misrepresented by national columnist

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Minnesota State University Moorhead is defending its budget cutting process after an online columnist held it up as an example of administrators going "straight for the academic jugular" when financial problems arise.

Slate columnist Rebecca Schuman used MSU Moorhead and the University of the District of Columbia as Exhibits A and B in decrying what she considers drastic cuts in academic programs at American universities. Schuman wonders why academics must bear the entire weight of bridging Moorhead's $5 million budget gap and suggests more of the cuts be spread across administration, services, and staff.

Schuman links to the Forum of Fargo-Moorhead's story on last week's announcement that faculty cuts were possible in 18 of the university's programs to cope with the budget shortfall.

As the column circulated more widely Wednesday, university officials responded. MSU Moorhead President Edna Szymanski told the Forum there are misconceptions about what the university is doing. “People think, ‘Oh, you’re not going to have an English major,’ and that couldn’t be further from the truth,” she told the newspaper.

Szymanski also told the Forum an 11 percent drop in enrollment led to the budget deficit, adding "It pretty much makes sense that if you have fewer students, you need fewer faculty.”

A university spokesman told MPR administrative costs and operating budgets have been reduced and faculty members are taking part in the budget cutting decisions. The leader of the faculty union told the network the university is looking at the costs and the enrollment trends in the 18 departments where cuts are being considered.

The Forum reports administrators are collecting feedback from those departments and will provide an update on their plans Dec. 5.

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