Provost Deb Harless presented the recommendations and results of the Faculty Load and Structure Working Group in reducing expenses to reach target savings.
By Emma Harville
As budget shortfalls sent waves throughout the Bethel community in the past year, several working groups of staff were established last spring to work through these shortages and recommend changes in order to reduce costs. Provost Deb Harless and associate provosts Deb Sullivan-Trainor and Randy Bergen held a session Thursday morning to discuss the Faculty Load and Structure Working Group’s recommendations on how to address the budget, particularly pertaining to faculty course loads.
The Faculty Load and Structure Working Group’s objective in meeting was to “identify one or more equitable systems for faculty loads that work across all four schools and result in cost savings” and reduce costs by $1,150,000.
Each course allows faculty members to obtain a number of Teaching Equivalency Units (TEUs) based on the number of credits pertaining to that course, and a total of 23.8 TEUs is necessary to acquire a full-time faculty load. Currently, both 3- and 4-credit courses are worth the same amount of TEUs, even though 4-credit courses require more contact time from faculty.
The group’s recommendations included aligning TEUs with credits on a one-to-one basis so 3- and 4-credit courses receive 3.00 and 4.00 TEUs respectively, along with adjusting the full-time faculty load to 22.00 TEUs. They also recommended an increase in adjunct pay per TEU to compensate for a decrease in load while significantly eliminating some positions.
After reviewing these recommendations, the Cabinet decided that they will not align TEUs with credits, as it would significantly increase costs in the midst of budget concerns. They will, however, need to eliminate full-time faculty positions by Fall 2021 in order to meet the $1,150,000 savings target.
The total number of positions to be eliminated is not yet determined, but the Cabinet hopes to communicate with faculty who will be cut by Spring 2020. Faculty in eliminated positions will be under contract for the duration of the following academic year. While the working group recommended the elimination of positions through attrition, the Cabinet does not see this as entirely realistic.
Although a one-course reduction will still be offered for new full-time faculty within the first year of their employment, professional development releases (taking interim off every four years) will no longer be available beginning Fall 2020. Harless estimates that this adjustment will cut costs by $200,000.
The Cabinet also plans to reach target savings through reduction of courses. This includes the removal of tracks, emphases and programs.
“How majors and emphases and Gen Eds are shaped has always been a conversation between ‘What do we need in this program’ and ‘What can we afford to have in this program,’” Harless said.
A Gen Ed Revision Committee will be launched next summer to discuss the objectives of general education and areas where reductions may be necessary. This group’s recommendations will be reported in the fall.