Apr 092009
Authors: Bryan Shiele

When Beth Meyers-Bass and 11 other adjunct faculty members in the Communication Studies Department heard that the university’s budget could be chopped by $13.1 million following Gov. Bill Ritter’s recommendation, they offered to take a 25 percent pay cut to keep their jobs.

Now they are looking to lose much more in lieu of last week’s announcement that the Joint Budget Committee, the group in charge of writing the annual appropriations bill, recommended the state triple its higher education slashes to $300 million.

“I’m expecting all of us to be cut if this goes through,” Chani Marchiselli, an adjunct faculty member in the Communication Studies Department, said.

Meyers-Bass says she is even looking at the possibility of applying for jobs at Starbucks or Target this summer.

“I have three kids and a mortgage to pay,” Meyers-Bass said. “I mean there isn’t much I can do.”

Some adjunct faculty said that the department and university are not to blame, saying the fault lies with Colorado’s budget process.

“Our communication department has always supported our special instructors,” Marchiselli said. “I love this university, it’s the legislature’s fault.”

Citing Colorado’s rank as 49th in the nation in higher education funding, Marchiselli added that “CSU should be funded so much better, they [the legislature] have been gouging us for awhile.”

Communication Studies Department Chair Sue Pendell says the department prepared budget cuts of 2.5, 5 and 10 percent after hearing of Ritter’s initial recommendation to cut $100 million from higher education funding.

“If the legislature passes this, that 10 percent just wouldn’t be enough,” Pendell said. “Most of our budget is due to salaries, and there would be job cuts.”

“I don’t feel very good about it at all, but there would be nothing I could do,” she said.

In addition to laying off the adjunct faculty members, the proposed budget cuts will have a significant trickle down effect on the entire department Greg Dickinson, an associate professor and director of graduate studies at the Communication Studies Department, said.

Dickinson said the size of the graduate program would have to be cut, effectively reducing the department’s diversity and the number of graduate classes offered, something that would have further effects at the undergraduate level.

“Communication as a discipline continues to grow and the only way to meet the increased demand is to train graduate scholars,” Dickinson said. “We need these people to help educate the growing demand of speech as a discipline.”

Graduate TAs teach many undergraduate classes such as public speaking, and Meyers-Bass is concerned about the effect the legislation could have on both graduate and undergraduate students.

“What about our graduate TAs?” Meyers-Bass asked. “The department needs small class sizes for performance-based classes like public speaking.”

“We can’t increase the class size, so we would have to decrease the number of classes we offer,” Pendell said.

Meyers-Bass said she has been trying to contact state representatives on the JBC since last week, and is frustrated that nobody has returned her phone calls.

State Rep. John Kefalas, D-Fort Collins, said he wanted to assure the Communication Studies adjunct faculty and all who are worried about the looming cuts that he is “working real hard to prevent these cuts and possible layoffs because I know it would be very damaging.”

“(They need to know) the folks that represent them are fighting for them,” he said.

Kefalas, who is a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said he expects the House to receive the bill early next week, following the Senate’s approval of the budget.

The House of Representatives will then vote and the bill will be subject to amendments until it makes its way to Ritter’s desk, where he will review the bill.

Meanwhile, the Communication Studies Department is doing everything they can to save any amount of money. Late last month the department removed most of the faculty office phones in order to save $2,000, and all faculty members are connected to just one printer in the main office to save on printing costs.

Hollie Petit, an adjunct faculty member of the department who is leaving the university at the end of the semester to take on a teaching position in South Dakota, is worried about her current colleagues.

“This is their livelihood,” Petit said. “It’s very scary.”

“Maybe something like this will be a big wake up call,” she said. “We haven’t been vocal enough as a group, as teachers, so maybe it will push us to be more vocal.”

Staff Writer Bryan Schiele can be reached at news@collegian.com.

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