An example of the queen sacrifice

MSUMoorheadWhat a college queen sacrifice looks like: Minnesota State Moorhead’s plans to reduce a large deficit.

Those plans begin at the program level:

five low enrollment majors would be phased out and some academic departments merged.

Which majors will be cut?

American Multicultural Studies (4 students), Medical Laboratory Technician (14 students), Masters in Fine Arts (22 students), Music Composition (3 students) and Community Health (21 students).

Departments to be merged:

  • History, Languages and Cultures;  American Multicultural Studies;  Women’s and Gender Studies
  • Political Science,  Economics, Paralegal
  • Mass Communications, Communication Studies
  • Cinema Arts and Digital Technologies; Theatre

Note the humanities and arts emphasis.  I’m not sure if American Multicultural Studies is supposed to be both cut and merged, or if the idea is to present Moorhead faculty with a choice.

Cutting programs means cutting faculty, both adjunct and tenure-track:

The plan would result in 16 fewer temporary faculty and six fewer tenured or tenure-track faculty, with the exact number depending on how many faculty accept a second round of early separation incentives.

Besides reducing faculty, other pieces on the chessboard suffer, including administration (i.e., support staff):

Savings of approximately $3 million have already been realized from a reduction in the number of administrative positions…

None of the mergers would affect the degree programs offered by the current departments, but they will result in significant savings in administrative costs.

President Edna Mora Szymanski: “it’s simply not sustainable for students to subsidize majors with very few students.”

One source reports that Moorhead tried early retirements, but they didn’t realize enough numbers:

Earlier this fall, Minnesota State Moorhead made early retirement offers to about 100 faculty and staff members. Only 21 of them agreed to buyouts. School officials were seeking 35 retirements.

Another report quotes Moorhead’s president identifying classic drivers for university financial stress, which lead to the queen sacrifice gambit: “years of declining enrollment and state funding caused the shortfall.”  This account says that enrollment decline was 10% over 2011-2013.

To sum up: this is an example of what I call the queen sacrifice, where a college or university sacrifices one of its most vital elements (faculty, academic offerings) to ward off financial woe.

In my post I dwelled exclusively on faculty cuts, but Moorhead reminds us that the queen sacrifice also sacrifices support staff (a/k/a “administration” in academic parlance).

(thanks to Jay Sieling)

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2 Responses to An example of the queen sacrifice

  1. Two questions arise for me. First, are they looking at course enrollments or just major counts? Some programs have few majors, but broader enrollment as electives. Second and more importantly, are they coordinating with other MN State campuses? If Moorhead eliminates Music Composition, there should be other places in the system that could potentially take interested students at similar costs. (Of course, that assumes that relocation is feasible, which it isn’t for many regional students, but at least it is better than no option.)

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  2. Good questions, Jason. I can’t make out an answer for your first question.
    As to your second, yes, that’s the kind of collaboration I mentioned in my first queen sacrifice post.

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