Budget cuts reshape colleges’ structure and seek to realign UD’s mission

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Photo by Francesca Norman

Correction, March 25, 5:00pm: This article has been corrected from a previous version that wrongly stated:

  • That “the Gupta Undergraduate College of Business will now merge into the Constantin College.” According to the President’s Office, the entire college will not move into Constantin, only the undergraduate business major.
  • That these budget cuts will save $2.2M. The cuts will actually save $3.1M total, with $2.2M saved by “eliminating or reducing several academic programs, as well as reducing contract costs related to university business operations and staff levels of administrative support,” and $882,000 from the academic restructuring changes, according to the President’s Office. 
  • Finally, that Ms. Sheila Howard is an Associate Dean and that Dr. David Andrews is currently the Associate Dean of Constantin. According to the President’s Office, Howard is Associate Dean of Gupta College and Andrews is Interim Dean of Constantin.

The University News Editorial team would like to apologize for any confusion these errors caused.

On Feb. 23, the University of Dallas released a restructuring plan to overcome financial insecurity and to encourage the growth of the university through new approaches to some academic programs.

After UD’s administration became aware of hidden structural budget deficits which amounted to about $3 million, they began brainstorming how to reduce spending in May 2020.

COVID-19 added additional pressure to implement budget reforms.

“Some of our adjustments have been long overdue. The financial hit from COVID made us realize that we couldn’t delay this,” said President Jonathan J. Sanford in an interview on March 18. “COVID was an accelerator.”

Deliberations on budget cuts began in May 2020, according to Sanford. Sanford headed the yearlong process,  working first with faculty groups, then with the Faculty Senate to build a task force. Once the task force accumulated data and possibilities for cutting, the University Counsel recommended specific cuts for the Board of Trustees to vote on.

“We spent the summer analyzing data and being open to a lot of ideas. The Board [of Trustees] had mandated that we needed to make a lot of reductions, and our goal was to exceed that,” Sanford said. “We were looking at financial considerations but those were not the primary drivers when it came to specific adjustments.”

Sanford explained that the focus of the cuts was not simply financial, but aimed at strengthening the university’s core values. 

“Budget cuts have been made with a real careful eye to becoming stronger in respect to our core strengths, and moving forward in the future to find ways to grow and enrich the student experience,” Sanford explained. 

As announced in the Feb. 23 press release, the undergraduate business major will merge with Constantin College. 

“The [business] major has always been a collaborative effort [with Constantin]. Business students participate in the core, they go to Rome, [and] they participate in athletics. It’s been an integrative experience from the very beginning,” said Dr. Brett Landry, dean of the Gupta College of Business.

“We hope to have a more seamless undergraduate experience. We want [the business majors] to feel more common in their work,” said Sanford.

Business professors, classes, curriculum and accreditation will remain the same. The few changes obvious to students will be the new system of advising and the relocation of the associate dean of Gupta College, Sheila Howard.

“Advising is switching to Constantin model, which means that faculty will be advising, and the business faculty will be a part of that,” said Dr. David Andrews, the interim dean of Constantin College.

Howard will transition from her role as an associate dean of the Gupta College to an associate dean of the Constantin College. 

“She is a strong factor to our undergrad success,” said Landry. “All the deans have recognized that what Shelia does in that undergrad experience has to continue.”

In addition to the undergraduate business merge, the Ann and Joe O. Neuhoff School of Minstry’s undergraduate programs will be absorbed into Constantin.  Neuhoff’s graduate programs will be absorbed into the Braniff Graduate School and will be accompanied by a new Institute for Ministry and Evangelization as of July 1, 2021. 

“The graduate programs had been part of the Braniff Graduate School for about 20 years before we started a separate school of ministry, so in a way they’re going home,” said Sanford. “I think it’s more accurate to look at this as an amplification as opposed to a reduction. There is a realignment of ministry within theology.”

This amplification is solidified by new and increased programs within UD’s academics and community in association with the Diocese of Dallas.

Although Constantin College has increased its size, capacity and duties with these transitions, its current departments have undergone budget cuts of their own. Effective Feb. 23, five administrative assistants were laid off, and the rest now handle several departments.

In Andrews’ email announcement to the departments on Feb. 24, he wrote, “The university was able to extend to [those who had been laid off]―through the hard work of our HR department―a severance, a paid extension of benefits, and outplacement services. This seems to me to be the least we could do, a token of appreciation for their dedication and good work.”

To more effectively share part-time administrative assistants, faculty and staff deliberated and revised their plan of action. Assistants now handle between one and four departments and split their time between them.

 “I think with the admin spread thinner, it’s going to be important for us to emphasize the interpersonal. When you’re working for more people it can tend to be more impersonal, so we have to focus on the human aspect of it,” said Dr. Christopher Mirus, interim chair of the philosophy department. “We’re going to be relying on student workers a little bit more.” 

Despite administrative cuts, most departments have not undergone layoffs of professors or eliminations of their programs. Some departments are still in transition due to these cuts and have declined to comment at this time. 

One department will disappear entirely: the Human and Social Sciences department and major.

Sanford explained that sophomores and upperclassmen will be afforded the classes and resources to complete their major, but freshmen are encouraged to find another major. Regardless, the Human and Social Sciences concentration will remain.

 Stanford said that “low involvement” in the major was factored into the decision to cut it. 

Dr. Dennis Sepper, chair of the human and social sciences department is disappointed with the cut to the program. “It has been an opportunity lost,” Sepper said in an interview. 

The total cuts are estimated to save the university $3.1 million. Due to the duration and the deliberation, Sanford is confident that the changes to the programs and departments will strengthen the mission of the university in the coming years. 

“Great care was made to make sure that this would not harm us, but would empower us to move forward in a clear direction,” Sanford said.

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