Concerned for the future

By Dick Mason, The Observer May 09, 2014 09:27 am

Students and faculty at Eastern Oregon University are looking for answers and venting feelings of frustration with the state in the wake of the news that the school must make $4 million in cuts due to a budget shortfall caused by falling enrollment and reduced funding from the state. (PHIL BULLOCK/The Observer)
Students and faculty at Eastern Oregon University are looking for answers and venting feelings of frustration with the state in the wake of the news that the school must make $4 million in cuts due to a budget shortfall caused by falling enrollment and reduced funding from the state. (PHIL BULLOCK/The Observer)
 

Eastern Oregon University students, faculty voice concerns about impending budget cuts

The news did not come as a surprise. Still it rocked Eastern Oregon University’s world last week.

President Bob Davies announced on April 30 that Eastern must make $4 million in cuts due to a budget shortfall caused by falling enrollment and reduced funding from the state. A draft financial sustainability plan released by Davies calls for about 25 faculty positions and seven administrative staff positions to be cut in the process of making the $4 million in budget reductions. 

Students and faculty at Eastern are looking for answers and venting feelings of frustration with the state in the wake of the news.

Susan Whitlock, an English and writing instructor at Eastern, said the reason for Eastern’s budget problems can be traced to lack of support from the Legislature.

“They are saying that students don’t matter. It is the legislators’ choice,” Whitlock said.

Whitlock said it is obvious to her that the Legislature is overlooking higher education in Eastern Oregon.

“It feels like the west side has abandoned us,” she said.

Whitlock said that jeopardizing EOU is unfortunate because if something happens to the university, many of its students, who come from low-income families and have country roots likely would not go on to another university.

“They are accustomed to rural living. They don’t want to live in metropolitan areas and go to a large university,” Whitlock said. “They have a devotion to place.”

EOU senior Daniel Wagner is so disturbed by the budget news that he said he would support a tuition increase. 

“It would help keep the programs students come here for,” Wagner said. “This is the first time I’ve advocated raising the price on anything. In this case it would be worth it.”

The student said that there is room to raise tuition. He noted that tuition at Eastern is much lower than it is at many other universities. Presently, EOU has the lowest tuition of any school in the Oregon University System.

Jake Kuwahara, a senior from Halfway, is also rattled by the sobering budget news.

“As a graduating senior it doesn’t affect me, but I do fear for the school itself,” Kuwahara said. 

He hates to see Eastern lose professors, individuals who have so much to offer students. 

“A lot of knowledge is going out the door,” Kuwahara said.

Jim Benton, an English and writing instructor, does not mince words when discussing the budget situation. 

“I’m angry about it,” Benton said.

(For full story, see Friday's 5/9/14 edition of The Observer)