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Humanities may face budget cuts next at University of Montana

Posted at 8:14 PM, Sep 27, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-27 23:17:48-04

MISSOULA – The University of Montana may no longer be known for its humanities department if proposed budget cuts take place.

The entire department, with the exception of Computer Science and Native American Studies, is getting hit with budget cuts, and that includes the entire Global Humanities and Religion curriculum.

But what hasn’t been earmarked for cuts: Journalism, Media Arts and Pharmacy Practice. Just some of the numbers presented Thursday as school leaders presented an updated plan to get its budget in check and still educate its students.

On Thursday morning in the Gilkey Executive Education Building, Provost Jon Harbor presented what budget cuts would look like in each department and what the selection process was for making them.

He even stayed after to answer some questions from members of the university and the media.

Budget cuts to UM have been well-publicized, but the strategy to how those cuts are being carried out might be a little different than originally thought.

“It’s been a very detailed, collaborative process that provided a lot of input so that we are making the right decisions as a community,” Harbor said.

The community aspect of the decision-making process is something that Harbor says makes UM special.

“That’s the culture here is one of collaboration engagement,” Harbor said. “If you look at universities that don’t have that, it’s a lot more difficult, if there is a belief that a couple of people in a room are making decisions without input. Here, there has been a long tradition of engaging faculty staff, students, community members, alumni in providing input that then goes into the final decisions.”

That collaborative process has left the university with a detailed outline on budget cuts that will need to be fulfilled by 2021. This leaves departments with three years to progressively ease into these cuts instead of executing them all at once.

“You can’t turn things on and off overnight. You have to plan over multiple years. So we don’t want big, dramatic changes over short time periods. We want to have planned transitions so that everyone can work towards those things,” Harbor said. “So, yes. It’s a multi-year plan that represents the sort of long-term planning that every institution should be doing.”

All of this careful planning goes into a plan aimed to make UM the top institution in Montana for years to come.

“We take this work very seriously because of the impact that it has on our communities, but if we don’t do this and we don’t plan and implement the impact is even larger. We are doing what we know is the responsible thing to do for the university so that it can shine and thrive into the future,” Harbor said.

Harbor also mentioned the importance of arts programs to UM, saying that the university is the flagship arts institution in the state of Montana and its success is important to UM officials.

Story by Connor McCauley, MTN News