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Faculty call for more transparency in light of athletic cuts at UND

UND professor Lana Rakow said she and professor John Bridewell posed several questions about ongoing budget cuts at a recent University Senate meeting, calling for more transparency regarding how the athletics department would contribute.

A piece of that question has now been answered.

The mood was somber Tuesday in the Betty Engelstad Sioux Center as UND Athletic Director Brian Faison announced the athletics department will eliminate baseball and men’s golf effective next season.

WATCH: UND athletics announces elimination of baseball, men's golf

Interim President Ed Schafer said to expect more bad news in the coming days as the university publicizes how budget cuts will affect the academic side of UND.

“It's unfortunate, but when you have to go through a drastic change in the budgeting process that has been forced on us, it's not easy and it's not fun, but we're going to get through it and we're going to come out a bigger, better, stronger university,” he said. “That's hard to understand right now. People's lives are being affected and hopes and dreams are disappearing. That's a hard thing to go through. But we're going to get through it."

Eric Murphy, a UND professor and State Board of Higher Education faculty adviser, said as a member of the Intercollegiate Athletics Committee, he was frustrated the IAC and faculty overall weren’t consulted about the cuts.

“I think you’d find most faculty aren’t surprised and in a way are going to be pleasantly happy that something was done to rein in athletics,” he said.

RELATED: UND players ‘devastated’ by news of cutting program

Rakow said the sudden announcement didn’t line up with Schafer’s plan of posting budget cuts for comment.

“I think there have been questions about expenses and deficits of athletics budget, so it would be better to see these cuts in light of full transparency and why they were chosen,” she said.

The athletic department cuts and revenue increases are expected to impact UND’s budget by $2.4 million for the next school year, which is just the beginning of how the university is addressing a $9.5 million cut handed down from Gov. Jack Dalrymple’s office in early February after the state’s revenue forecast fell short.

The School of Medicine and Health Sciences, which has a separate budget, must also cut $3.1 million. Schafer said his long-term vision actually will make a financial impact of about $22 million over the next three to five years.

“This year we have to get over that $9 million hump,” he said.

WAYNE NELSON: Dark day for UND athletics

Interim Vice President for University and Public Affairs Peter Johnson said that $22 million impact encompasses a $13.3 million savings for fiscal year 2016 the university created with one-time funding cuts to address a $5.3 million budget shortfall earlier this academic year.

The university plans to post detailed budget proposals Monday explaining where more cuts will likely be made. Schafer said the announcement regarding golf and baseball was made first because of logistical issues with scholarship dollars.

"There's always competition on campus with faculty saying if we didn't have sports, we'd have more money in faculty and vice versa, and now it's clear everybody is going to be affected by these things,” he said. “It's every line item.”

But some faculty are calling for more transparency.

“Faculty are concerned athletics takes academic’s money, and they're concerned about the lack of transparency in the athletic budget and how much they make or don't make,” Murphy said.

Since mid-March, UND’s music therapy program has stopped accepting majors. The plan from College of Arts and Sciences Dean Debbie Storrs also included not accepting students into the Masters of Theatre Arts and Doctorate of Communication and Science Disorders programs.

Since then, music therapy students rallied to gather petition signatures, protest and garner support from music therapists across the country in support of keeping the program.

“We started bad news right out of the chute with the music therapy program,” Schafer said. “They have felt alone out there like they’re the only ones getting impacted.”

Meganne Masko, director of UND’s music therapy program, said she felt her program’s suspension was forced and was curious to know whether the cuts made in the athletic department were as well.

“I’m not sure how deep of a cut it is symbolically,” she said.

UND professor Jim Whitehead called for more transparency as the university moves forward and said he hopes the decision regarding the music therapy program and other “top-down” decisions are revisited and brought before the proper faculty groups.

“Otherwise, the notion of shared governance is a joke,” he said.

University Senate Chairwoman Rebecca Weaver-Hightower said in an email she was saddened by the news, as she has had students who have played in both sports and a nephew who went to college at Penn State on a baseball scholarship.

"I hate that we're in such a situation that the president is having to make such difficult choices," she said. "I know, however, that such hard choices are being made all across campus. The golf and baseball students, their parents and the coaches have my sympathy, as do the faculty, students and parents in the academic programs that the campus will lose."

Murphy said he understands why the two sports were cut from an administrative level, but the university's decision to cover cost of attendance athletic scholarships should be taken into account alongside the cuts.

“It comes out as a wash,” he said.

Anna Burleson

Anna Burleson is the higher education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Mass Communication program and is originally from Watertown, S.D. Contact her with story ideas or tips by phone, email or Twitter, all of which are listed below. Examples of her work can be accessed here.