By Tori Rodgers
Contrary to the many rumors circulating campus, Provost Greg Miller reassured the students that attended January 29th’s Student Forum that Malone University is absolutely not closing any time soon.
The financial struggles and resulting reductions university-wide have raised a lot of questions, fears, and outright anger. For some, hope has been taken away with some of their favorite faculty members.
Greg Miller (Provost), Mel Scott (Dean), and Student Body President Gina Nagella recognized the circulating doubt and in order to quell the rising unrest, they hosted an open forum, put on by Student Senate, for the Provost to answer students’ pre-submitted questions.
Twenty years ago, when Miller came to Malone, the student body was about 40% larger than it is now. “As our student body decreased in size, our faculty did not decrease in size at the same rate,” Miller said. This “create[d] quite a bit of financial pressure on the university.”
The decision was made to not replace faculty members that “have left because God has called them elsewhere”, then making corresponding changes to the curriculum where it is adjusted, “but we can still deliver a program in a really quality way,” Miller said.
Possibly one of the most emotionally devastating parts of these changes, for the Provost and the students, are the faculty reductions. Six faculty members have voluntarily made the decision to retire, with three more retiring at the end of next year.
“In a couple of cases, because they care more about Malone than they do their own timeline,” Miller said. “They’re willing to say, ‘you know something, I was ready to retire in a couple of years, but I’m going to go ahead and retire now to help the financial status of the university.’”
Some faculty members, four or five of those being cut, have one year contracts that they’re not going to renew. In order to properly send them off, Miller offered and provided his personal support and recommendation for their future positions.
The hardest decisions for Miller were the elimination of some tenured faculty. Their post extends the timeline, however, to stay until August 2021. There are eight members that are not retiring or leaving voluntarily; in total, there are a little over 20 that will not be at Malone after these next two years.
However, a comprehensive list of the faculty names will not be released at this time, as it is not technically official yet, only expected. Miller wanted to make an effort to inform the students and community ahead of time.
“Faculty themselves will make final decisions about these curriculum changes,” Miller said. “Only after that will I then go to the board of trustees, inform them, and get their approval as well… We’re not going to be official until the end of the month of February.”
At that time, Miller will be more than happy to communicate a list of the faculty, ensuring that they can inform their students of their departure on their own time as well.
As for programs, some just didn’t have the student concentration and were too expensive to continue. As a result, several programs have been cut that would have a minimal impact on students, as seen in an email from the Provost on January 15.
“The complete list of all [undergraduate] eliminated programs is… Fine Arts and Crafts, Graphic Design, Philosophy, Dual Degree Engineering with U Akron, RN to BSN Degree Completion (into dormancy),” Miller wrote in the email.
Several education graduate programs were eliminated and “a number of other programs will undergo revisions to streamline the curriculum,” Miller wrote.
Students currently in these programs will still receive their degree as planned; about 20 students are affected and will be taught out.
“Your advisor will help you and make sure that this next year, before there are any changes,” Miller said, “that you have an opportunity to do the courses that you need in order to complete the program that you’re in.”
If this isn’t possible, tutorials may be instituted in order to fulfill those classes. Post graduation, there will be no ill effects for those with degrees in these cut programs. Malone still has its accreditation and as such, those degrees will remain valid.
“This last November, our accrediting agency, the Higher Learning Commission, put their stamp of approval on Malone as full health in all aspects of our accreditation,” Miller said.
As for the here and now, “we’re continuing to do things even while we’re making cost reductions,” Miller said. “These reductions will secure the long-term financial sustainability of the university and allow us to be able to reinvest in our people, in our students, and in our campus.”
Evidence of these investments can be seen around campus; the library is being renovated, a cafe is moving into Emma’s, and we will even be seeing some new programs in the near future.
“Beginning Fall 2020 we also anticipate the development and launching of several new programs, including Chemical Dependency Counseling, Data Analytics, Spanish for Service and the Professions, Professional Writing and Editing, and a fully online Accounting major,” Miller wrote in the aforementioned email.
In addition to this, there is a three plus two program in the works for psychology, where a Master’s degree can be obtained with three years of undergrad and two years of grad school.
“All of these new programs are going to be service oriented,” Miller said, aligning with Malone’s mission. “They’re going to meet a need in the community and prepare people for service.”
Experiential learning will be emphasized, following the model of the education program’s institution of early field experience for their students. Malone will also be partnering with the community by using people with real world experience as part-time instructors, in order to practice good stewardship of financials.
Malone isn’t going anywhere anytime soon; we have a future to look forward to.
“I can tell you we’re not doing this again,” Miller said. “It needed to be done in a decisive fashion one time; do it, get it done and get us to a place where we can be able to dream again, and hope and build and develop.”