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Limbaugh addresses concerns; makes announcements at open forum


November 20, 2013

Lindsay Brown

Montana State University-Northern chancellor James Limbaugh speaks during an open forum Tuesday afternoon at the Montana Actors' Theatre.

Chancellor James Limbaugh met with faculty and staff of Montana State University-Northern Tuesday to address their concerns, give good news and explain the current status of the university at an open forum Tuesday.

"I have good news about enrollment," Limbaugh said. Out of the six institutions in the university district, MSU-N and Bozeman were the only two who have increased enrollment rates from last year.

Though enrollment is up at MSU-N, the number of incoming freshman is identical to last year's numbers, Limbaugh said. This means the retention rates for first and second-year students has risen.

"We increased our ability to retain students," Limbaugh said.

Limbaugh also gave some statistics on the make-up of MSU-N students.

Around 77 percent of MSU-N students are Anglo-American and 11 percent of students are Native American, which is a drop in percentage from last year.

The average age of Native Americans attending MSU-N is 26-28.

"I fell the university has an important role in education Native Americans," Limbaugh said.  

The ratio of female to male students is pretty even, Limbaugh said.

Limbaugh added 74 percent of students were on financial aid and 34 percent of students reported they are first-generation students.

He added that in 2001, the average age for an MSU-N student was 28. Now, it is 25.

"We are moving toward traditional, college-age students," Limbaugh said.

Limbaugh also announced that a museum is to be built at the Vande Bogart Library. The Hagener collection, which is currently housed at the Hagener Science Center, will be moved to the library once the construction, planned to start December, is finished.

"It'll be outside the conference room so people can really enjoy our collection," Vicki Gist, the library director said. "It'll be an area you can properly display the Indian artifacts."

The collection is currently not being properly cared for in a way a museum would offer. Factors such as lighting and maintaining the right humidity come into play when preserving artifacts, especially textiles.

The collection has been housed in Hagener Science Center since 1968. Aaniiih Nakoda College has donated archival storage boxes to MSU-N, which amounted to around $8,000-worth of supplies to start the museum.

Limbaugh also spoke of the We Love Northern Ball. The ball will be "barn dance style," and donations at the ball can be put toward the museum or scholarships. There will not be an auction this year. Norman's Ranch and Sportswear will give 15 percent of the proceeds of any sale to someone who tells them they are shopping for the ball to MSU-N scholarships and the museum.

Limbaugh went on to discuss some areas of concern to the faculty and staff.

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities put together requirements in which every seven years, MSU-N has to "write a book about itself," Limbaugh said.

"We have been able to prove to creditors that we are stable," Limbaugh said.

The two main things that happen to a university when it loses its accreditation is that it loses funding and students cannot transfer their course credits to an accredited university from an unaccredited one.

Limbaugh said administration will compare the self-study of the university to the commission regulations to see where the university falls behind and where it meets guidelines and rules set by the NWCCU.

In order for the university to stay afloat, MSU-N must follow institutional accreditation regulations, Complete College Montana regulations and focus on performance-based funding.

"All these things are going to affect the way we measure ourselves," Limbaugh said.

With performance-based funding, the college must prove that it is earning the money it needs to operate. The college completion rates come into play with this style of funding, and the completion rates are not great at MSU-N, Limbaugh said, but the rise in retention rates may play a significant role.

"We need to continue to be able to retain students," Limbaugh said.

Concerns about the size of MSU-N resulting in a lack of funding from this system prompted Limbaugh to explain this was not a factor.

"Size and complexity will not trump actual performance," Limbaugh said.

The main concern Limbaugh addressed from the most recent report on the university included giving the university faculty "competitive, market-based salaries."

Trygve "Spike" Magelssen and Darlene Sellers, both professors at MSU-N, voiced their concerns on the lack of raises staff have seen.

"I could walk in with a basket of money and not be able to give you a penny," Limbaugh said to Magelssen. Limbaugh said this is because the contract the faculty have, he is unable to take any real steps toward acquiring raises for the faculty and that it is up to them to negotiate for them.

"It is not up to faculty," Sellers said. "It's a David and Goliath situation."

"I do not have the authority to go past your contracts," Limbaugh said. "I can advocate, yes, and I have."

Limbaugh said his number-one priority was raising salaries, and if they were not raised to competitive levels, it could "strangle" the university, but there was ultimately nothing he could do about it. The faculty will have to adjust its criteria, he added.

"If all the power rested with (the faculty), we would all have good raises," Sellers said after the open forum.

The stabilization of Donaldson Hall is almost finished and the next step in the process of its revitalization is bringing in a specialist to measure the needs of the programs at MSU-N to find out what to do with the added space, Limbaugh said.

He also commended the football, basketball, softball and wrestling teams for being nationally ranked this year and said he is planning an all-sports banquet on March 19 to thank them.

"We'll be able to celebrate these teams," Limbaugh said. "They bring national recognition to MSU-N."


Reader Comments

Willy writes:

Are you guys still trying to figure who messed up, or are you gusy sensoring my post?

Watcheseagle writes:

if MSU-N is so concerned with educating Native students what happened causing ANC to discontinue sending eduction majors to Northern after two years at ANC...today they go to MSU-B???

Stever writes:

If king tut wants to survive, he better start investing in the people that make this place work. if he wants more students and wants to keep them here, then invest in them. give them something that makes them want to be and stay here. (not a worthless/never used tennis court)...add more sports teams, bring in 200 more student athletes. give pay raises to the employees, make them happy to work their tails off for you. quit being a puppet and figure head for MSU and start doing some real work.

2smart4u writes:

Ooooo, goody! Dim Jim, The Anointed One, dazzling the crowd with more useless prattle and feel-good buzzwords, accomplishing nothing. A dog and pony show. Because that's what court jesters do.

Alumni2010 writes:

The biggest need that should be addressed is a new dorm, Morgan and Mackenzie are well past their glory days. Maybe the chancellor should spend a week in the dorms and live amongst the students, eat all his meals in the cafeteria and realize the need. Build a new dorm and it will attract and keep students. It is amazing how well the athletics do at Northern considering the facilities, a true credit to the good coaches across the board. Keep up the good work!!!

Jman writes:

I was there. At no point did the Chancellor say we have softball.

Willy writes:

So who screwed up on the softball the Chancellor or the reporter???

Localperson1 writes:

UMMM the article states softball....since when do we have softball???? It seems that since Northern became part of the MSU system versus a stand alone college more and more pressure seems to be put to send stuff to MSU Bozeman!! Will we become a community college under this chancelor. He states staff needs to basically work with the wages they have, but it's okay to have staff have to re-arrange his furniture before housekeeping gets there, plow his drive before the college. HMMM PRIORIZE!!!

Willy writes:

So Northern has a nationally ranked softball team? Not sure if that is Big Jim's (Limbaugh) mistake or the reporter's mistake. Good point MSUN student, on the tennis courts. How many students actually use the tennis courts? More students listen in knmc in one day than use the tennis courts in one year. It is all about the resume with Big Jim.

MSUNstudent writes:

I am worried that the Chancellor is not putting the money he can spend into the right places.For example.How much and why did the tennis court on campus get an upgrade before any of the athletic facilities?Locker rooms, Mens and Women, Football Field (practice), Coach's offices and Concession Stands all need upgrades and have for some time now.I believe some of these upgrades could help with recruiting new students and retaining students already attending MSU-N.Student's need to see improvements


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