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Students gather on the steps of Main Hall early on Oct. 26, 2018 to stage a "sit-in" in support of the humanities. More students and supporters joined the group over the next hour. 

Students and faculty gathered on the steps of Main Hall to demonstrate support for the College of Humanities and Sciences Friday in response to a 20 percent budget reduction for faculty and staff funding.

Eli Brown, 20, a humanities student and ASUM senator, organized the event to show support for and emphasize the importance of humanities studies, and to demand students have a say in “shaping their education,” according to the Facebook event page.

Black Coffee Roasting provided free coffee to students. UM maintenance crews showed up to start preparing the space for the presidential inauguration scheduled at 12:30 p.m.

In particular, Brown said he would like clarity from the administration on what metrics it used to decide on budget targets for each department, which were released last month.

“For the most part, the administration has tried to provide as little information as possible,” Brown said.

ASUM passed a resolution to ask the administration for more transparency in its decision-making last week. The resolution also asked for Provost Jon Harbor to speak at an ASUM meeting. Brown said they were hoping to speak with Harbor before deans had to turn in their plans for how to cut faculty to meet the budget targets, which were due Friday, Oct. 26.

Around 20 people milled about the steps by 9 a.m., including students, faculty, a dean and some administrators.

CHS Interim Dean Jenny McNulty said she came to the demonstration to show her support and speak with students about ideas to promote the college in a positive way. McNulty is ultimately in charge of recommending how to implement cuts to the 22 departments within CHS.

“I’ll be excited when this process is over,” McNulty said.

Four administrators, including President Seth Bodnar joined the group and talked with students.

Ryan Garnsey, 21, a history and philosophy student, spoke with Bodnar about his concerns for the future of his program. He said he realized the demonstration would likely not change the administration’s process, but hoped it would galvanize support for CHS.

“It’s somewhat egregious to slash the trademark programs,” Garnsey said.

The issue of transparency also came up in an Oct. 25 meeting of Faculty Senate leadership. Faculty discussed their involvement, or lack thereof, in the budget making process.

Anthony Johnstone, law professor and committee member, said Harbor took responsibility for the strategic investment portion of the budget, but neither faculty or staff seemed to feel ownership of that part. He noted the lack of faculty input.

“That, in particular, struck me as not reflecting shared governance or strategic planning,” Johnstone said.

The provost will review recommendations from deans in the coming weeks, and decide by Nov. 5 if a committee needs to be formed to decide how to lay off faculty through the formal process of retrenchment.

Brown noted administrators made an effort to engage with students at the demonstration and hopes those conversations will continue.

“It made the point it needed to make,” Brown said.

Reporting contributed by Cameron Kia Weix