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Anticipated faculty cuts pack senate meeting

Faculty and administration came together to discuss the impact of the upcoming faculty cuts on Bethel.

By Molly McFadden and Molly Wilson

Faculty and administrators lined three of the walls of BC 468 Wednesday afternoon. When the chairs in the conference room began to run out, they started sitting on the floor, waiting for the Faculty Senate meeting to start.

“I am emboldened seeing friends and colleagues sitting here with us,” Eric Leafblad, associate professor of missionary ministry and Faculty Senator said halfway through the meeting.

Among those lining the walls were faculty from the History, Philosophy, and Political Science, Psychology and Biblical and Theological Studies departments. Along with members of the Presidential Cabinet who were invited by President Ross Allen, also in attendance.

“When I heard faculty talk about how these proposed cuts and load changes will, in very real ways, impede their ability to invest in their students, my heart was crushed.”

– Bethel History professor Sam Mulberry

Earlier this week department chairs and program directors met with Provost Robin Rylarsdaam to discuss the upcoming faculty cuts.

“I don’t envy what you have to do. I don’t believe you are against us,” Sherysse Corrow said towards administrators. “This feels very different than in the past. This is a transformational change and I just need you guys to hear me.”

After a devotional from Dr. Christopher Moore, who serves as the President of Faculty Senate, the floor was opened to any guests who wished to speak during the open forum time.

Political science professor Matthew Kuchem listens to his colleagues at the faculty senate meeting. Kuchem has worked at Bethel for four years and serves as a faculty senator. In response to faculty cuts, Kuchem said to administration, “your best assets are being cut.” | Photo by Mild Du.

Many faculty members opted to speak about their concerns over the upcoming faculty cuts. April Vinding and Rachel Anderson talked about how they see Bethel’s values very differently now than when they started, while Biology Professor Melissa Cordes raised concerns about workload after cuts. Corrow asked whether there were other options.

History professor Sam Mulberry attended Bethel as a student, before ultimately becoming a professor.

“My experience as a student was marked by the Bethel Faculty investing in me. They offered me their time, their talents, their wisdom, and their hearts. They gave me opportunities. They made me want to be a Bethel professor,” Mulberry said. “When I heard faculty talk about how these proposed cuts and load changes will, in very real ways, impede their ability to invest in their students, my heart was crushed.”

Reflecting on the meeting, Professor of Psychology Joel Frederickson said, “I thought that my colleagues expressed their love, concern and passion for this institution very well.”

Jessica Henderson addresses the administration present at faculty senate. Henderson represents the Art and Design department on the Faculty Senate. During the meeting she expressed concern that upcoming changes will compromise the student experience in a way that isn’t worth the money they pay for tuition. | Photo by Mild Du.

In an email sent to faculty after the meeting Rylarsdaam said, “Undoubtedly teaching load, TEUs, and the assigning and documenting of them is a complicated part of Bethel’s systems. As we explore alternatives to further personnel reductions, we will be thoughtful and thorough as we sort through how changes to teaching load could be implemented, and evaluate the implications and complexities involved in all possible solutions.” 

At the beginning of the meeting senators voted to close the meeting at 5:15 p.m. to anybody who is not a member of the faculty in order to continue to discuss the topic. This included administrators, The Clarion and Student Representative Blake Birno. The Faculty Handbook states that the names of those being laid off must be announced by October 15. 

Faculty and administrators lined three of the walls of BC 468 Wednesday afternoon. When the chairs in the conference room began to run out, they started sitting on the floor, waiting for the Faculty Senate meeting to start. Guests were given the option to speak during the open forum portion of the meeting. | Photo by Mild Du.

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