EKU cuts French major, but journalism, geography get to stay

The Eastern Kentucky University Board of Regents voted Monday to cut several academic programs as part of budget cuts.
The Eastern Kentucky University Board of Regents voted Monday to cut several academic programs as part of budget cuts.

French and comparative humanities degrees got the ax Monday from the Eastern Kentucky Board of Regents.

Other programs that had been recommended for suspension, including journalism, geography and horticulture, will instead be redesigned to become more “marketable and efficient.”

After almost a year of discussion, EKU faculty and administration created a list of possible program cuts aimed at reducing a $13 million shortfall. However, the final list will winnow only about $614,000.

Officials cautioned that French will be taught at EKU, but students won’t be able to major or minor in it or in French instruction. Current majors will receive their degrees.

All the regents voted for the cuts, except for the faculty, staff and student representatives, who abstained, citing conflicts of interest.

Still, board of regents chairman Craig Turner took an angry swipe at faculty over the length of deliberations and recent commentary about the cost of EKU’s rapidly expanding athletics program.

“The decision to engage all parties has not had the success I had hoped,” he said, reading from prepared remarks. “We lost focus on the task at hand … if you don’t participate, you lose your voice.”

After the meeting, Turner said he was expressing frustration that the faculty senate declined to make program cut recommendations.

Turner also defended recent commentary and meetings about EKU’s athletics program, which has expanded in recent years. According to EKU officials, athletics programs generate about $2 million to $3 million a year but spend about $14 million. The rest is paid through the school’s General Fund.

Athletes “contribute greatly to better retention and graduation rates,” which will become even more important under the state’s proposed funding model for higher education, Turner said.

Shirley O’Brien, chairwoman of EKU’s Faculty Senate, said faculty went through “proper process and procedure” when considering the proposed cuts.

“We did see alternatives,” she said.

President Michael Benson and Provost Janna Vice made the final recommendations for program cuts.

Faculty regent Richard Day also defended the process.

“Let’s not give up on faculty or on shared governance at EKU,” he said. “EKU followed the spirit of shared governance and we should do it again whenever the need arises. While these democratic processes may be a bit painful and hard to get through, I hope we will reflect on the contributions the faculty has made.”

EKU faced a $13 million shortfall earlier this year. Through these programmatic and other cuts, including significant changes to employee health insurance, the school has trimmed the deficit to about $2 million.

Health insurance costs are increasing 400 percent for employees, faculty member John Fitch said.

There are at least 44 fewer administrative jobs, both from empty positions and layoffs. But faculty still feel that academics are bearing the brunt of the financial pain.

“It’s very difficult for us to swallow,” Fitch said. “His (Turner’s) speech was very difficult to take.”

Linda Blackford: 859-231-1359, @lbblackford

EKU academic program changes

Under Monday’s vote, EKU will make the following changes:

Suspend: BA in Comparative Humanities; Minor in Comparative Humanities; BA in English, Theatre Concentration (Create Theatre Certificates; Retain the Minor); BA in English, Theatre Teaching; BA in French; BA in French Teaching; Minor in French; MBA Concentration in Accounting; MBA Concentration in Integrated Communication; Associate of Applied Science, Science for Engineering.

Redesign to be more marketable and efficient by 2017: Horticulture BS, Horticulture Minor, Journalism BA, Journalism Minor, Geography BA, Geography Minor.

Retain but reduce cost: Religion Minor, Social Intelligence & Leadership Studies Minor, Technical Writing Concentration in English BA.