Anne Hutchinson/The Siskiyou
Southern Oregon University President Mary Cullinan ended many students’ worry Monday afternoon when she announced that geology and geography curriculum is being integrated into a stronger core degree
In a room with low ceilings, maroon carpeting, and chairs lined up in neat rows, students, faculty and staff filed in to hear the verdict of President Mary Cullinan’s final plan.
Round three of the budget issue was announced Monday March 12 in a campus wide meeting held in the Rogue River Room.
“We are not in as much trouble as we thought,” said Cullinan during the comment period of the meeting. “We are a dynamic public liberal arts university, seeking to serve our students and this region with relevant, vital and compelling higher education.”
Since the provisional plan was revealed a month and a half ago, members of the Southern Oregon University community have collaborated to seek alternate options for the university than the drastic cuts Cullinan first announced.
Cullinan in her speech said many letters were sent during the comment period concerning the cuts of German, geology, geography, women’s studies and honors as majors from the university. Of these five majors, German was the only one being drastically changed, however students who wish to take lower division classes will still have that option.
Geology and geography, according to Cullinan’s plan, are not going to be offered individually as majors and she explained the two will be combined with a “common core” integrating them as one strong major.
To the relief of some audience members, women’s studies, international studies and honors are not being cut, but being redesigned to “capture additional savings.”
President Cullinan talked extensively about building a new College of Arts and Sciences that will integrate different disciplines to give students more balanced and broad education.
“In discussion across campus, most participants have agreed that SOU’s curricula must help prepare students to see the world from multiple viewpoints, solve problems that cross disciplinary boundaries, and become skilled in using new and old modes for acquiring information,” said Cullinan.
Cullinan said The College of Arts and Sciences, which will be implemented on July 1, is the most ambitious of the new plan to revamp SOU. The streamlining process in creating the new college will take SOU’s current 23 majors down to 14, and three deans will be cut to one.
“A big portion of administrative savings will come from creating a College of Arts and Sciences,” said Cullinan. “This streamlining affects the organizational chart of SOU; it doesn’t change the majors within the departments.”
Other issues addressed in Cullinan’s speech was the collaboration of Rogue Community College and SOU to make a higher education center in Medford. Concern during the comment period Cullinan said, was whether or not SOU could fund this center, but she said the university could not afford to pass this opportunity.
“This building represents our investment in the future of Southern Oregon,” said Cullinan. “We are instrumental in encouraging a seamless transition between RCC and SOU.”
Cullinan also introduced a committee called the Blue Ribbon Task Force that will focus on the budgeting process. The group will release their communication and inclusion plan to Executive Council for approval by April 16.
The main concern for SOU now, according to Cullinan, is recruitment and retention of students at the university. She said faculty and staff are vital in the role of communicating to future and current students that SOU can provide a valuable education.
Sophia Mantheakis, a sophomore in sociology, said after hearing Cullinan’s final plan she is more confused than the last announcement, however she believes the university will see positive changes.
“It’s kind of a starting point,” said Mantheakis. “We’re going to have to go through a lot of pain to make this university what we want it to be.”
Mantheakis, originally from Medford, said she had planned on only taking her undergraduate courses here and then transferring to a larger university, but she loves SOU and decided to stay. Despite the budget cuts and financial setbacks, she said she is happy to be in a community that values the university.
“It’s good to be in a community that cares so much,” said Mantheakis.
Associated Students of Southern Oregon University President Brian Greig said he was impressed with how the administration and Cullinan took everybody’s comments seriously.
“It’s never fun to have to remove positions,” said Greig. “I think a couple of years from now we’ll look at it as a good thing.”
Greig said that SOU’s financial setbacks are an example of Oregon’s overall lack of funding for higher education.
“We as students have a responsibility to make sure higher education is important in Oregon,” Greig said.
The meeting lasted about an hour and there was little discussion after Cullinan announced the plan. Attendees soon emptied out of the Rogue River Room.
“Today, I ask you to put the tough months we have endured behind us,” said Cullinan. “Look to the future with the same hope and optimism I have for SOU.”