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Eastern Michigan faculty at odds with administration over budget shortfalls

Feb 1, 2018

The heads of  Eastern Michigan University's faculty and lecturer unions are blaming bad management decisions for the school's multi-million dollar budget shortfall.

They are criticizing the more than 60 non-faculty job cuts that EMU President James Smith recently announced to deal with this year's unanticipated deficit.

Smith said this year's budget gap is estimated to be between $4.5 and $5.5 million, and is due to the number of actual student credit hours being lower than had been projected.

"The ultimate source of that mismanagement — or the primary cause of it — is excessive spending on athletics," said Professor Judith Kullberg, president of the EMU chapter of the American Association of University Professors.

Kullberg is calling for cuts to athletic spending to address the budget gap — not cuts to the jobs of staff who provide academic and student support.

Kullberg said EMU spends about $1,000 from each student's annual tuition on intercollegiate sports.

"We feel fundamentally that if there are going to be cuts, they should not be coming from the academic side of the institution," said Kullberg. "There have already been significant cuts for funding of academic programs over the last several years, and many academic programs right now are grossly underfunded."

Kullberg said EMU should also review the controversial contract it has entered into with Academic Partnerships to provide marketing services for  online degree programs.

"Can we afford this?" asked Kullberg. "Because the contract has the university giving 50 percent of tuition and revenues to Academic Partnerships, to a private, for-profit company." 

According to EMU spokesman Geoff Larcom, the university is still reviewing positions with the affected bargaining units. It expects to know in about two weeks what positions will be cut, as well as the breakdown between open and unfilled positions, and those requiring layoffs.

"Athletics is being tasked with the same degree of reductions as other units," said Larcom.

Larcom said the arrangement with Academic Partnerships is an important part of EMU's efforts to generate additional revenue by increasing  enrollment.