Tighter budgets may mean fewer faculty, administrators say

As Simpson College looks for ways to tighten the budget in upcoming years, faculty positions may have to be cut, President John Byrd said.

No final decisions have been made, but five faculty members have been notified that their contracts may not be renewed for the 2009-2010 school year.

According to Byrd, Simpson has an institutional policy requiring that faculty be notified by Feb. 1 if there’s a possibility that their contracts might not be renewed.

“While Simpson has not been hurt significantly, we are just preparing for the worst,” Byrd said. “Right now we don’t have enough information to issue a contract.”

However, recent financial activity has been better than expected, and that could bode well for faculty retention.

“The good news is that our applications and deposits continue to look good,” Byrd said. “We’re hopeful we won’t have to cut as deeply as we might have projected just a few weeks ago.”

Byrd also said that administrators are hopeful that they will have more complete information by March 1. Many factors play into the decision of where to make budget cuts and how much needs to be trimmed.

Simpson is currently conducting searches to fill a number of tenure track positions. If the right candidates aren’t found, those positions will go unfilled, freeing up money in the school’s operating budget. That money could potentially be used to retain faculty positions.

Students have already begun to express concern and anger about the possibility of losing faculty members.

Members of the Theatre Department expressed outrage after Assistant Professor Ann Woldt informed them she may not be returning in the fall.

In addition to her role as a professor, she also serves as the Education Outreach Coordinator.

Students have formed a Facebook group in support of Woldt which has grown to more than 200 members.

As EOC, Woldt organizes programs, including the High School Theatre Festival and the Summer Theatre Institute, which are used as recruitment tools for the theater department.

The High School Theatre Festival has been cancelled for the summer of 2009.

Many theater students who expressed their outrage say they’ve been affected by the EOC position in some way.

“Why Simpson?” said junior Danille Brown. “I chose Simpson solely because of my experience as a high school participant in the High School Theatre Festival. Prior to attending the Festival, Simpson was not an option that I was considering.”

Sophomore Kelsey Swanson agreed that eliminating the position would hurt the future of the Theatre Department.

“I think that the Theatre Department is going to get even smaller in future years without the EOC position,” Swanson said. “I attended the High School Theatre Festival twice, and those experiences helped me shape my opinion on Simpson Theatre.”

If Woldt’s position is cut, the Theatre Department will have three full-time professors.

Students are currently working to organize a meeting with administrators to discuss the potential eliminations.

Woldt declined an interview with the Simpsonian for this article. The administration has not released the names of the faculty members whose contracts may not be renewed for the 2009-10 school year.