Vacant positions makeup faculty eliminations

No full-time, non-temporary faculty members at UCO will be laid off this year, said President Patti Neuhold-Ravikumar in an university-wide email sent on Tuesday. Instead, the university will eliminate 30 vacant faculty positions, including faculty members who have retired or resigned. 

This means the university will not provide a number of classes, or in some cases, pass on responsibilities from one faculty member to another. 

“We’re not just postponing hiring. We simply will not, at any point, replace those positions,” College of Liberal Arts Dean David Macey said. 

For students, class availability may change for specialized courses where there are fewer students, said Macey. Some classes may only be offered in the spring or fall semesters, and summer options might not be available. 

However, the plan to increase student fees by 3% will continue, the president said. While the university will not know the status of enrollment until the summer, Dean Macey said the increase in student fees could affect next fall’s enrollment numbers. 

“I think something that is of concern is we, in the College of Liberal Arts, teach a lot of the core curriculum classes, and one of the things that has happened, I will say, is that you see tuition has increased much more rapidly than tuition and fees of community colleges,” Macey said. “If you’re an UCO student, you could take your Fundamentals of Speech, English Composition classes at OCCC and Rose State, and pay probably about half of what you would pay here.” 

Macey said since these core credits are transferable to UCO, they are much more financially attractive to students. He said the university needs to have students “first and foremost” in their minds, and think of ways best to serve the UCO student population. 

“And not just thinking in abstract ways about what college students want and need, but to really know our student population here, in the metro, and all the folks who make up the UCO student community,” Macey said. “What are the needs? What are the pressures? And how do we best accommodate diverse backgrounds in age, aspiration, socioeconomic situations? How do we provide the best support we can with the limited resources we have?” 

Student Logan Boyd, an organizer of recent student protests targeting student fees and faculty layoffs, said the decision is a “good compromise,” but tuition increases still remain a primary concern. 

“I definitely don’t think this is the end. I am interested to find out what will happen next semester or even over the summer with a lot of these changes, because this still is a BandAid on a missing arm,” Boyd said. “Unless UCO finds a way to right the ship, we’re gonna continue to cut faculty or staff, and we’re going to continue to increase tuition and fees. But we need to start scaling back and find ways to cut expenses.” 

Until enrollment is complete for the fall, the university members will not know the status of the student-to-faculty ratio, specifically if UCO will reach its 15-1 goal with 30 vacant positions eliminated, Macey said.

“I think the new reality of higher education is that the landscape, the finances, and enrollment change very quickly, and somewhat unpredictably, and it’s forcing a different kind of decision making— both of urgency and structure,” Dean Macey said. 

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