"The Power of And" has been President Bodnar's slogan to describe the University of Montana since the beginning of this year; it is a direct reference to the importance of Liberal Arts education here at UM. This made the recent release of the Budget Targets for 2021 all the more shocking to the College of Humanities and Sciences (CHS) because, despite the rich tradition of liberal arts here in Missoula, CHS will be receiving a 20% cut to their budget by 2021.
Therefore, this week, I plan to author a series of three letters (the first two have already been published), in which I will annunciate some contradictions implied by the Budget Targets as well as implore you all to join me in demanding a voice in our education. In this letter, I hope to discuss the decline of student involvement in educational decisions at the University of Montana.
Since the arrival of the new administration, and more specifically the Provost, there has been a marked decline in the effect students have been allowed to have on their education. Committee agendas have stopped being posted, date and room numbers are no longer available, and student representatives have been unable to contact their committees, despite the legal obligation that students are present. Though this may be due to a lack of staffing here at the University, pressure from entities including the Kaimin to start posting pertinent information has gone unanswered.
Perhaps the most egregious efforts to stymie student participation have come with the proposal of the Instructional Staffing Budget Targets 2021. A group of four administrators, made the final decisions regarding the budget in a series of closed meetings over the summer. Since the release of the Targets, students, faculty, and the community have all requested further explanation of the criteria considered in allocation, the method used in weighing those criteria, and the process used in choosing administrators who would make the final decision. In response, we received a copy of the same document presented before, with some letters on the side. The faculty continued to push back; yet, their efforts were rewarded with a single memo in which none of the questions mentioned above were answered. However, the most disheartening comments came in a ‘feedback session’ last week with CHS, in which the Provost took no questions, told the faculty he would no longer be discussing numbers, and advised them to “wear more Griz gear and recruit better students”.
In decisions that will affect the education of students, livelihoods of faculty, and the future of this community, a response like the Provost’s is blatantly unacceptable and downright rude. The administration is clearly out of touch with the amount of work students and faculty have put into holding this University to a high standard, even in its time of crises. As such, I invite you to join me on the steps of Main Hall this Friday at 8:30 am to express UM’s commitment to the Humanities. Bring your homework, grab a free coffee, have a seat, and make your voice heard; this decision shapes the lives of students, faculty, and the community we care for so dearly.