Editorial: Academics should be the last cut made to the budget
Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Peter French told the Justice on January 28 that the University would not leave students without a voice when it came to faculty cuts. "We have been approaching this in a way that will not affect students. (But) if we have choices to make that affect students we'll be right there discussing them with students."
This appears to have been a lie. The University ignored pleading students -some of whom voiced their opposition to certain faculty cuts on the opinion pages of this newspaper - in addition to axing professors and lecturers to narrow a gap in this year's budget.
First-years don't know what they're missing, but returning students have taken note of the changes. Academic departments no longer can boast of a wide range of upper-level course offerings. The enrollment limits protecting the size of classes seem to have vanished from some courses, creating overcrowded classrooms and lecture halls. This size problem seems to be especially acute in seminar courses where a small class is vital to effect proper discourse between students and professor.
Fortunately, the newly-shorn Brandeis course offerings aren't as paltry as those of some public universities in similar financial straits. The New York Times reported last week that many state universities have cut course offerings so dramatically that many students are not certain they can graduate in four years.
This kind of course-slashing is not a precedent we expect Brandeis to follow. All colleges are cutting corners under increased budgetary concerns and we understand that Brandeis must also react to difficult financial times. But surely the administration can do a better job at maintaining its academic standards.
In November of last year, the University acknowledged students' concerns and said any cuts made would not directly affect students. University President Jehuda Reinharz assured us that money could be saved by reducing expenses for travel, equipment and supplies and by keeping vacant positions unfilled.
In January, more budget cuts were announced. And then later that month, following a meeting of the Board of Trustees, the budget was slashed even further, bringing total cuts for the year to over $9 million. It was at this meeting that trustees approved a plan to reduce the faculty and eliminate some classes.
We understand that Brandeis needs to tighten the spending spout, but the quality of our classes should not suffer for it. With an operating budget of over $200 million, the University should be able to maintain the quality of education we have come to expect at Brandeis, or at least try to involve the students in this decision-making process.