Bethel executives speak to the community about a challenging present and an uncertain future.

By Molly Korzenowski

President Jay Barnes and a few other executives addressed present and future challenges during the Bethel community gathering April 30. 

“I just want us to pause,” Executive Vice President and provost Deb Harless said. “Whether you pause and pray, whether you pause and breath. Whether you pause and just… stop.”

Harless spoke to the faculty and program cuts made last week. She said decisions were made based on data analyzed from an extensive academic program review process which considered factors such as program maturity, growth prospects, enrollment and financial activity of the program over the last three years, and number of full-time faculty per program. Harless said there’s no one reason for why certain programs and positions were cut, only that the data was analyzed and cuts were made accordingly.

“The inability to grieve in person is very difficult,” Barnes said. “We grieve with you.”

According to Cara Wald, there are no further faculty cuts planned to happen given the extra financial burden COVID-19 has caused the university. The university does not plan to furlough any employees during the fall semester, as every employee will be needed to make sure campus runs smoothly in the fall. However, given the unpredictable circumstances, Wald said there is still a possibility such changes will have to be made. 

“We’re longing to resume that face-to-face communication,” Barnes said. “We are working in every way possible to get back to that in the fall.”

Bethel executives are working to come up with an adaptable plan for the fall as Governor Tim Walz and the CDC release updates on how colleges should handle the COVID-19 situation. According to Barnes, experts have predicted another surge of the virus is possible during the fall, so the university needs to be flexible.      

“We have to be able to change and adapt quickly, so planning for a virtual reality is necessary,” Harless said. “It will involve all of us.” 

Special teams have been derived to provide a successful fall semester. Barnes said no decision  has been made to change tuition costs for the fall. If Bethel ends up fully online, this will be explored more. 

“I am so anxious, as we all are, to be back together,” president-elect Ross Allen said as he ended the meeting in prayer. 

 

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