‘We’re cutting vital organs.’ Faculty Senate passes resolutions to support academics

At the final Faculty Senate meeting of the semester on Dec. 12, 2019, several actions regarding funding for academics were passed. 

At the last Faculty Senate meeting of the decade, senators addressed the dissolvement of academic programs, WKU instructor layoffs and passed a resolution to transfer funding from athletics to academics. 

The senate approved a proposal authored by Guy Jordan, associate professor of art history, to transfer funding for athletics to underfunded academics. Only three voted to oppose the action.

“Generally people think that athletics makes money for the institution and so that’s kind of a misnomer and is not true,” Geology Instructor Margaret Crowder said. “There are a handful of institutions around the entire country that are money makers for their institution but Western Kentucky University is not one of them.”


Ahead of the meeting, Jordan said the proposal is necessary to end the cycle of dissolving academic programs at WKU and losing faculty members, referencing the recent Comprehensive Academic Program Evaluation Review.

“In the wake of that [CAPE] process, we are no longer cutting fat,” Jordan said. “We are cutting vital organs.”

For the past decade, Jordan said professors and staff members have seen their academic programs take cuts each year to the point it cannot be cut anymore. Jordan said athletics must be an option for cuts and it is on the table considering the reductions from last year. 

WKU released a statement from Provost Cheryl Stevens and Executive Vice President for Strategy, Operations and Finance Susan Howarth on the resolution where they said they appreciated the recommendation. 

“We will continue to follow the budget process that was established a year and a half ago with input from dozens of individuals, including faculty and will share the resolution with those budget groups,” Stevens and Howarth said in the statement. 

In the statement Stevens and Howarth said the total college experience is important to recruitment and retention, and athletics play a large role in the process.

The senate also addressed recent letters sent to instructors which informed them their positions were being eliminated in the next academic year. 

Tonja Miick, a math instructor who was let go, said her firing wasn’t logical and didn’t demonstrate the institution’s motto of WKU being a “family.” 

A main theme of discussion throughout the meeting was the reason why instructors are so easily let go. Other senators expressed the insecurity they feel as working employees at WKU. 

The senators agreed to create a resolution asking the WKU Administration rescind the recent instructor cuts and to stop all further cuts before the Dec. 15 deadline.

The senate also discussed the new calendar for the upcoming academic year which puts one week of Winter Term classes before Christmas and the other two weeks after. This would make the spring 2021 semester begin earlier than usual. 

A resolution was passed by the senate to express their disapproval of the upcoming academic program review by Gray & Associates from the Council on Postsecondary Education, according to the resolution. This program review is mandated by the CPE at all public Kentucky colleges.

This program review is separate from WKU’s internal CAPE process and evaluates programs in various universities. 

The faculty expressed concern with the lack of transparency and the feeling that they were being pitted against other universities. 

The actions approved at the meeting will need to be approved by higher authorities at WKU before taking effect. 

This story will be updated with more information. 

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story misspelled Tonja Miick’s first name. Additionally, the Herald reported Jordan said athletics had never been cut before when he did make note in his statement that athletics faced cuts this year. The article has been corrected. The Herald regrets the error. 

News reporter Lily Burris can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @lily_burris. 

Reporter Matthew Williams can be reached at [email protected]