University of Montana President Seth Bodnar addressed a special session of the UM Faculty Senate at a packed house in the Music Recital Hall on Tuesday afternoon.

The purpose of the meeting was to roll out the recommendations that the University Planning Committee has hammered out to address the reduced budget due to an almost 30 percent drop in enrollment over the past decade.

“There is need for change,” began Bodnar. “Years of enrollment decline have led to a structural deficit in our budget. Upon coming on board, one of the things I immediately asked about over the years an enrollment decline of nearly 30 percent. It’s important to remember that back in 1992 our state funding per student was about double what it is today and so we are now twice as reliant on tuition revenue as we once were, so when all things are considered the amount of the structural deficit is now about $10 million.”

After discussing the university’s refreshed mission statement, Bodnar began addressing the recommendations for program reductions and adjustments.

“There are four administrative recommendations and 10 academic recommendations,” he said. “We must tell our story more effectively, and to be frank with you, we haven’t done that as well as we should have. The perceptions of the University of Montana do not align with the reality of the great work that is happening here. We have a lack of a consistent story. We’ve got the role posted for the new vice president and one applicant said he was a prior applicant but then withdrew because the role wasn’t structured appropriately.”

The committee recommended replacing 23 department heads with 10, create a Division of Physical Sciences that includes Geosciences, Chemistry/Biochemistry, and Physics and Astronomy, and eliminate 13 programs and 52 Full Time Equivalent positions over the next three years.

The complete list of recommendations can be found here.

There was definitely criticism over Bodnar’s recommendations. UM History Professor Michael Mayer complained about a lack of openness and transparency by the administration with faculty and staff as the process was ongoing.

“This is the least transparent process you can possibly imagine,” said Mayer. “It’s one that will inevitably lead to real academic problems. Nobody’s gone beyond saying ‘gee this will save us a few bucks so maybe we can make our budget and keep the lights on, which is an admiral thing to do, but not at the expense of the academic mission of the university.”