By Tim Leeds
Some Montana State University-Northern faculty are unhappy with the recommdation for elimination or alteration of 20 programs in mandated program review, and that the changes could damage the Hi-Line university.
The program review is mandated by the Montana Board of Regents and Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education (OCHE) in an effort to increase productivity and efficiency of the university system.
Dr. Vaughn Rundquist, associate professor of biology, said in the university consolidation done in 1994 Northern Montana College was made into a university by the same offices now mandating the program review. He said these offices are now removing programs a university should have.
"How can you have a university without upper division math classes?" he said. "If we're a university we should have some of those represented."
Dr. Joyce Scott, deputy commissioner at OCHE, said since the programs are not graduating students, this is not a valid argument.
"If you had the programs and nobody's coming, you're not achieving your mission anyway," she said.
Rundquist said that having the same standards applied to MSU-Northern as are applied to schools like MSU-Bozeman or University of Montana-Missoula doesn't seem right, with those schools' larger student bodies.
Dr. Virginia Sluiter, professor of mathematics at MSU-Northern, said compared to the size of the institutions, the university has a higher graduation rate percentage-wise than the larger campuses.
Scott said the universal standards should not be a problem. She said Montana's standards are very low nationally. While Montana requires an average of five graduates for a baccalaureate degree, she said, most
systems in the nation require 10.
Scott said one problem is that having many programs with low enrollment fragments the student population. She said what is needed is to consolidate and strengthen the programs to maximize enrollment. She said this is a chance to move in a new direction.
"I look at this as a hopeful process," she said, "a chance to reallocate resources to programs that are more current and more interesting to students."
Sluiter said the elimination of the math minor could damage education students' chances at getting jobs. She said most middle schools or high schools won't hire math teachers without a minor in mathematics.
Scott said since Montana's funding for higher education is enrollment driven, if programs with low enrollment are kept, other programs have to pay for them.
"For every program that doesn't meet the threshold," she said, "another program that does has to carry more weight. Maybe it's time to take stock and look at new programs."
Dr. Douglas DeLong, professor of mathematics at MSU-Northern, said the recommended cuts are part of a downward spiral. He said if the cuts do take place, he thinks MSU-Northern will end up as a two-year institution at best.
DeLong said he thinks something like this is planned for MSU-Northern.
"We feel like we're in the dark," he said. " The board, the commissioner are planning something for Northern and we don't know what it is. Certainly nothing that's going to carry any quality."
Some MSU-Northern faculty have said that community members making their wishes known could make a difference in the review process.
"My idea is that Havre and the Hi-Line have supported MSU-Northern very well down through the years," Rundquist said. "Could we not solicit support? Do they know what is happening? Seems if they know what was afoot, they would bring pressure to bear."