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A rough time for the faculty

Posted: Friday, Apr 15th, 2011

• One staffer calls university’s actions ‘irrational, ‘unjustified’

Although they’re trying to see the bright side of the university’s budget-driven reorganization, these are tough days at South Dakota State University. Even President David Chicoine acknowledged that.

Many see the changes as personally and professionally devastating. One SDSU faculty member who’s retiring called Thursday’s budget cuts “irrational and unjustified.”

In one of a number of moves to save money, the university eliminated the Department of Horticulture, Forestry, Landscape and Parks. Majors in those areas will be reorganized under a new Department of Natural Resources. When asked what that change would mean to the majors and his staff, Department Head David Graper declined to comment.

But in an email to his staff, David Willis, department head of Wildlife and Fisheries – also becoming part of the new Natural Resources group – tried to stay as optimistic as he could.

“The budget cuts to SDSU this year were substantial,” he said, “and the effects are rather large, especially after smaller cuts the past two years. I think the grad students know that the typical faculty attitude around here has been to pull ourselves up by the bootstraps, but this has been tough.

“The good news is that we were able to retain the individual majors and the graduate programs, so your degrees will not change.”

Russell Stubbles, a Ph.D. professor in the Horticulture, Forestry, Landscape and Parks Department, said Thursday’s cuts “hurt the state of South Dakota.”

Stubbles, who is retiring June 21, teaches a specialization program in parks management and found out Thursday for the first time his program is slated to get the ax. “It was cut for some reason, but I don’t know the reason,” he says.

“They don’t tell the person in the trenches.”

Stubbles said he has 40 students from the region enrolled in his specialization with 100 percent job placement.

“It would be logical to keep someone (in my teaching position), as 40:1 is a very comfortable (student/teacher) ratio,” he says.

Now, he says students who wish to major in park management have to head out of state to get their degrees. The nearest schools offering the specialized degree are the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks and Mankato State University in Minnesota.

He said the people who are losing out are the residents of South Dakota. “This is really sad for South Dakota’s state parks, and particularly unfair to South Dakota taxpayers.”

Contact Vicki Schuster at vschuster@brookingsregister.com.

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