The University of Montana Faculty Senate discussed the benefits and drawbacks of an upcoming academic restructure under development on campus. 

The Sept. 29 meeting, filled with guest speakers and anonymous comments from faculty, was the first meeting the senate has held in-person since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

Highlights of the meeting might have not been opinions orally presented by faculty and administrative representatives, but the release of an anonymous academic restructure survey for faculty members.

The survey revealed mixed reactions from faculty members towards the renewal plan. Members conveyed different emotions from excitement, confusion, and disdain.

“If we continue to stay the way we are, we will continue to lose credibility,” one anonymous comment said. “We NEED and MUST adapt to the changing world; and we can do so with high regard and respect for our past and present.”

Provost Pardis Mahdavi and other administrators started the academic restructure, which will collapse UM’s seven colleges into five larger schools, throughout the summer. 

Some colleges, like the College Of Business and the College of Arts and Media, would merge into one college. Other groups, like the W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, would be renamed. None of the proposed changes have been finalised, according to previous Kaimin reporting.

Mahdavi said in September that the new structure will look to better serve students with more interdisciplinary programs to prevent unnecessary double majors, increase donations to the University, and ultimately position the University for future enrollment growth.

However, some faculty said they do not approve of the new renewal in the survey. 

One anonymous member answered, “What if nothing "excites" me? The new provost seems to be in a Decide-Announce-Defend strategy which is usually reserved for Emergency Situations. There seems to have been little to no discussion with relevant departments on campus.”

Another stated, “I am much more confused than excited. The potential benefits have not been communicated well,” in response to the question about what part of the academic restructure excited them the most

“We must be willing to adapt the way we do things, to innovate and to always seek a better way,”said Seth Bodnar, president at the University of Montana, in a Sept. 9 message from the president released to the campus community discussing academic restructure.

Bodnar and Mahdavi both made an appearance at the Faculty Senate meeting to discuss academic restructure, and gave a more in-depth explanation on the current state of the University.

They both discussed the increasing negative perception of higher education, which ultimately led to the creation of a plan to shake up the current structure.

“I feel like this is one of the largest risks to the future prosperity of this country right now is the decline in people that don’t see higher ed as an important thing,” Bodnar said.

The Kaimin previously reported that some administrators at UM are fearing an enrollment drop from a lower birth rate in the United States. NBC News reported there are four million fewer students in college than there were 10 years ago.

The Faculty Senate will meet again on Oct. 13 at 3 p.m. The group will continue discussions on the academic restructure, confirm the finalised 2023-2024 academic school year calendar and look at possibilities of enrollment and tuition discounts.