Weather Forecast


UMD announces layoffs to reduce budget deficit

An aerial view of the UMD campus. (2015 file / News Tribune)

Nearly 40 employees — all having non-tenured faculty positions — will be laid off by the University of Minnesota Duluth to help cut $2 million in expenses.

It was done without eliminating any academic offerings, UMD officials said.

UMD announced to its campus Friday another piece of its budget reduction puzzle, the piece intended to pare the area of academics. The decisions made leave the remaining annual shortfall at $1.3 million, down from more than $9 million. The university, in order to deal with less tuition dollars from several years of declining enrollment and less state aid, has been in methodical reduction mode.

Students shouldn’t be affected by the cuts announced Friday, which are effective July 1, said Fernando Delgado, executive vice chancellor for academic affairs.

“There is not a single major that’s being suspended and we are preserving the seat counts for liberal education,” he said, which are the number of seats available to take courses. Instead, “we found efficiencies in our course offerings and our class sizes.”

The 38 faculty members working on short-term contracts that won’t be renewed equal 16 full-time employees. Some are actually still employed but with smaller workloads, but some positions were eliminated altogether. That, combined with a handful of retirements and four faculty positions held open, make up $2 million in cuts to the budgets of the School of Fine Arts, the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Education and Human Service Professions. Those schools were chosen because they had the greatest decline in enrollment or higher proportions of courses with low enrollments.

The Swenson College of Science and Engineering and the Labovitz School of Business and Economics weren’t affected in this round.

Since program suspension — while mentioned as a possibility — isn’t part of the reduction, all programs offered by UMD remain as options for students.

But instruction-wise, every department in the education college, including social work and psychology, and in the fine arts school, including music and theater, was affected. Some of the CLA departments affected include those for political science, sociology and anthropology, communication and writing studies. What it means for students is fewer course offerings for those in less demand, and fewer small classes for the same reason. If, for example, multiple sections of a course were offered throughout the day with only a few students in each section, that will no longer be the case. More students will be enrolled in a smaller selection of a course offering. Who teaches a class may also change.

The College of Liberal Arts, which is the biggest of the three where reductions were made, had $1.1 million removed from its budget, including nine partial and full layoffs. The education college lost $500,000 and saw 19 layoffs, and the fine arts school $400,000 with 10 layoffs. The reductions in each of those is less than 10 percent of their total budget.

While it’s not yet approved, Delgado isn’t recommending merging any of the colleges, as was previously proposed. Under that move, UMD’s five colleges and schools would become three, and two dean positions would be eliminated. That’s not likely to happen, Delgado said, because sufficient savings were found elsewhere. That proposal was controversial with some employees, who were worried how it would affect the identities of their programs.  

UMD also still must reduce a one-time budget deficit by more than $7 million. The annual deficit is expected to be eliminated by 2019-20, and the one-time shortfall by 2022-23. An increase in enrollment could speed that up.

Any merging of departments has not been finalized. Students have protested the proposed merger of the women, gender and sexuality studies department with sociology.

Another proposed change was cutting the director position for the Sustainable Agriculture Project Farm, a 30-acre farm used as both a classroom and a source for UMD meals. That position will be paid through a two-year contract out of non-annual funds, but the job is still officially counted as a reduction.

The cuts made this year were seen as aggressive by some, Delgado said, but continuing to draw out the process would only increase the shortfall. The priority, he said, is for students to see “a strong UMD.”

“Nobody likes to cut the academic core of an institution,” Delgado said, referring to the concern of many that cutting academics hurts the mission of a university.

“On the other hand,” he said, “it is difficult for us to argue that we need to have everything the way we had it, when we have close to 1,000 fewer students.”

Staff Council chairman Jeff Romano said staff have been affected through several rounds of budget cutting, but are focused on impacting students the least.

“I know they’ve (administration) worked really hard on looking at attrition and retirements, and figuring out as many ways as possible to not impact positions,” he said, noting meetings will be held with top administration so staff can get questions answered.

Faculty Council chairwoman Molly Harney said the council is committed to supporting the “academic integrity” of UMD, and wants to work with administration to ensure the success of students through the process.

“We’re going to feel some loss,” she said. “These are 38 instructional staff that are dedicated and talented, and that loss will be felt.”