Today: Jun 16, 2024

State university system aims to make cuts without affecting education

Jessica Giannone, General Assignment Reporter:
Despite the shortage of faculty across the Connecticut State University System compared with other university systems in the Northeast, CSUS has the highest percentage of faculty among full-time employees at the universities, according to the CSUS website. Out of full-time equivalent staff, 45 percent are faculty.
The website says the only staff levels that have increased during the past five years are full-time instructional personnel, which went up by 7 percent, and full-time student support services, which went up by 7.8 percent.
The services include academic counselors, financial aid, health and career services, admissions, registration, information technology staff, residence hall staff and student activities.
Bernard Kavaler, assistant vice chancellor for Public Affairs of the CSUS Office, said the priority has been on direct services to students and faculty.
“One of the things that’s important is the connection that faculty and students have,” said Kavaler. “Certainly having full-time faculty available for students makes a difference.”
The American Association of University Professors Membership Services coordinator, Linda Cunningham, said a lot of full-time faculty were hired for this semester, and the university is working on obtaining tenure faculty.
“The mission of the university is education,” said Cunningham. “(The faculty) are the ones that provide the direct mission.”
Richard Volkman, assistant professor of philosophy at Southern and associate director of the Research Center on Computing and Society, said he thinks more tenured faculty would be good, if the university wanted to be serious in serving students, but it is expensive.
“If we have ongoing mentor relationships, that creates attachments to the university,” said Volkman.
He said full-time faculty is preferred because adjuncts’ connections to students is “tenuous”; it is not as good of an educational relationship. He said because he is full-time, he is committing himself to a person’s career.
“I’m still here,” said Volkman. “I can develop a relationship with (the students) over time.”
Cunningham said full-time faculty allows for the departments to move forward because they work on the curriculum and have the requirements to “keep current” in their field, research and advise students. She said the university doesn’t have the structure without the full-time faculty.
Kavaler said although full-time faculty tend to be more available to students than adjuncts because they’re on campus more, each bring something different to the classroom, which is why it’s important to have both.
Cunningham said there’s a need for adjunct faculty because they provide a unique array of expertise, and the university cannot operate without them.
“That’s what you have to budget for,” said Volkman. “We’re not nearly as flexible. They want the flexibility that comes with adjuncts.”
Kavaler said until the budget is approved, it’s difficult to say with certainty what level of funding the university system would have in those decisions, regarding staff employment.
Although there is a shortage, 99 percent of CSUS staff growth has been in faculty and student support services, according to the CSUS website.
Kavaler said one thing the system makes an effort to do is preserve reasonable levels of faculty across the system; a reasonable class size makes a difference.
“We’re aware that there will be additional cutbacks, and we will do everything we can to maintain the level of faculty we have,” said Kavaler.
Jennifer Hudson, the operations and grants manager of Faculty Development, said in terms of her line of work, they try to keep the morale up because faculty retention is important. She said Faculty Development tries to offer as many support programs they can to attend to all the faculty’s professional development needs, so they stay.
“You’re going to see more classmates in your classes next semester,” said Hudson, “and faculty are going to be taking a higher workload because of the shortages.”
Cunningham said she thinks maintaining faculty numbers will always be a challenge because of finances, and if Connecticut was in a good financial position, the university might have enough faculty.
“At the end of the day, we have to make sure we have protection for tenure,” said Volkman.
Cunningham said the only thing the university can do is to re-look at priorities and do the best it can in maintaining the appropriations it receives from the state.
Kavaler said CSUS is doing everything they can not to adversely impact the education that is provided to students.
“I think there has been and continues to be…a tremendous dedication to student success,” said Kavaler.

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