44 Faculty Jobs at-risk of Termination


Bethany Spitzmiller

44 Faculty Positions could be eliminated if UCM President Roger Best decided to approve the Academic Review Board’s recommendations

By Matthew Goldsmith, University of Central Missouri

  University of Central Missouri President Roger Best is expected to announce his retrenchment decisions by midday Friday, March 26 after he reviews recommendations. 

  Best had initially planned on finalizing his decision by March 12, but he decided to push back his decision because of differences between reviews from UCM’s Academic Program Review Committee, Academic Review Board and the Provost’s office. He said the lack of agreement among the three led to more time-consuming data review.

  “It’s something I would have looked at anyway, but because of the discrepancies in the sense of recommendations, I had to spend a lot more time than I anticipated reviewing data, reviewing appeals, reviewing what the programs themselves had submitted as part of the review process,” Best said. 

  Best said the retrenchment decisions are challenging on a personal level because of their impact on UCM employees.

  “It’s never a process that we enjoy,” Best said. “It’s never a process that we take lightly.” 

  Best was satisfied with how all levels of review approached the retrenchment process in a serious manner.

  Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs Phillip Bridgmon sent his recommendation to Best on March 1, in which it was recommended that 44 faculty positions should be terminated. The College of Health, Science and Technology and the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences had the most positions recommended, with 16 and 17, respectively. 

  Bridgmon expressed gratitude for his colleagues and how they’ve handled the process.

  “I’m very appreciative of the consciousness of our colleagues, their commitment to UCM,” Bridgmon said.

  While Bridgmon acknowledged retrenchment is a difficult process, he said he is hopeful for the future.

  “My hope and goal is to get us through retrenchment and then begin working together so that we can begin building again,” Bridgmon said.

  Bridgmon said he wishes the UCM community will look back at the retrenchment process, while difficult, as one they worked through together to ensure a strong foundation and a brighter future.

  UCM’s Academic Review Board recommended that two of the Category 4 programs that appealed their ruling, the psychology master’s program and religious studies minor, be placed in abeyance, which Bridgmon defined as the start of a process that discontinues a program.

  Religious studies Director Catherine Burris said she was disappointed by the ARB’s decision. 

  “I think it’s a recognition of the reality that in our current budget situation, which started before the pandemic and will continue after the pandemic, very small programs are simply less feasible than they used to be, and I understand the reality of that,” Burris said.

  Burris said religious studies is important in today’s environment, specifically mentioning the involvement of extremist religious groups in the Jan. 6 Capitol riot.

  Despite the ARB’s ruling, the ARB noted in its recommendation that it fully supports the need to include religious studies coursework at UCM and mentioned a certificate program that might provide an alternative to the minor. Burris said the program is currently in the process of trying to institute the program.

  Michael Bersin, an ARB representative for the College of Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, was satisfied with how the ARB approached the retrenchment process.

  “I would say it was very thorough,” Bersin said. “The people on the ARB were diligent, and I believe that the people on the ARB believe that they made the correct decisions.”

  However, Bersin believes that UCM is and will be negatively impacted by this process. 

  “If we’re at this point right now in retrenchment, that’s a failure on many levels of this institution that we got to this point because the damage, even now and with the probable outcomes, will be permanent and irreversible,” Bersin said. “This institution will cease being what it was and will be significantly less than what it was.” 

  While acknowledging that there are cases in which people aren’t vulnerable to retrenchment, Bersin cautioned those who will remain at UCM.

  “No one at this institution, even with their seniority and their rank, should be doing a happy dance that they’ve escaped the consequences of this,” Bersin said. 

  Other programs that appealed to the ARB were the BA/BFA theatre programs, which were placed within Category 3. The ARB accepted the program’s appeal with an 8-2 vote. Interim Head of Theatre and Dance Kathleen Leicht thought the ARB’s decision on their appeal was good news.

  “I’m confident and optimistic that theater and dance will continue to play a major role in the Warrensburg community and on campus,” Leicht said.

  However, Leicht mentioned the programs might still lose positions as Best makes his final decisions.

This story was originally published on Muleskinner on March 26, 2021.