A typo in the original version has been corrected.
EDMOND, Okla., (KFOR) – University of Central Oklahoma students and faculty demanded answers from the university’s administration Wednesday, wanting to know why they’d try to solve their multi-million dollar budget deficit by eliminating part of the school’s biggest asset – its teachers.
“The fact that it has come to this point shows the lack of care in our administration, the lack of transparency and the gross mishandling of our budget,” said Logan Boyd, a UCO junior and student organizer of Wednesday’s protest.
University officials blame declining long-term enrollment on the budget shortfall, citing an overall 17.4 percent decline in enrollment over a period of five years.
In March, the president hosted a budget forum for the university community where she shared the options for addressing the university’s longstanding money shortage, including the option of cutting more than 40 positions. Officials said the figure was determined after final enrollment numbers for the spring semester became available.
UCO also said job cuts are just one area being considered and the final number of positions is still being decided.
The school’s community told KFOR that tactic could rob students of resources and a quality education.
“In one academic year we lost 8.9 percent which is equivalent to fifty full time faculty,” said Associate Biology professor Nikki Seagraves, referring to the teaching roster, which was already on the decline. “The impact that faculty have on students and encouraging them and getting them into professions is immeasurable.”
The president is continuing to meet with faculty leadership and student groups during the final phase of the budget planning process.
“This was branded as an institution in which you could, you know, come and be yourself and be vulnerable, “ said Kate Adams, a UCO senior.
The university told KFOR Wednesday in an email that “leadership in UCO Academic Affairs is working with the deans of each academic college and faculty leadership to make strategic decisions on which positions could be eliminated to best protect the quality and integrity of academic programs.”
As an alternative, the university also told KFOR that they have identified 18 faculty position that are currently vacant and could be eliminated, adding that the rest would be a mix of part-time positions as well as full-time tenure and non-tenure track positions.
Although students and faculty felt they made a difference in Wednesday’s march, they emphasized that the fight isn’t over, and they’ll continue to challenge the proposed cuts for as long as it takes.
“Just because today was a success doesn’t mean that we need to stop; if we don’t continue to prove our presence, nothing will happen,” said Boyd.