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ASU to cut 200 faculty, enlarge classes to save money

Lecture classes could jump from 300 to 1,000 students

Arizona State University is preparing to lay off 200 or more faculty associates and dramatically boost some class sizes beginning this spring as it braces for more state budget cuts.

Some lecture-style classes could jump from about 300 to 1,000 students.

The cuts come as ASU officials anticipate $25 million or more in state budget cuts. That’s on top of the $30 million in cuts the university already has made. State revenues are down again this year because of a sluggish economy.

“Every administrative area and school have been asked to prepare additional cuts,” said Virgil Renzulli, ASU’s vice president of public affairs. The exact number of faculty cuts is unavailable because departments are still formulating plans, but Renzulli said it could be “200 or more” and will involve “faculty associates,” who make up one of several categories of nontenured positions.

ASU has 991 faculty associates, who often work part time. ASU did not have a breakdown on where the cuts would happen. Tenure and tenure-track faculty are not being cut, Renzulli said.

For students, the cuts may mean larger class sizes, depending on their majors and what courses they take.

Michael Slugocki, a senior at the University of Arizona and chairman of the statewide Arizona Students’ Association, has concerns about how well students will be able to learn in a 1,000-seat lecture class. The 23-year-old political science major once took a class with 500 students.

“There’s no real connection between you and the professor because you feel like you’re just a number,” he said.

Arizona’s three state universities get about $1.1 billion from the state, which accounts for about a quarter of their funding. The rest comes from tuition, room-and-board fees, federal grants, donations and other revenues.

ASU has faced the largest cuts because of its size. The university employs about 12,400 administrators, faculty and support staff and, with more than 67,000 students, is one of the largest public universities in the country.

UA and Northern Arizona University are not planning to cut faculty jobs, although UA recently announced a hiring freeze for tenure faculty.

NAU spokeswoman Lisa Nelson said officials there plan to meet in mid-November to discuss possible cuts.

Renzulli said ASU is planning now so the school can make the cuts midway through the university’s fiscal year, which ends June 30. If university officials were to wait until spring, they would be unable to make the cuts in time to cut the budget.

ASU also plans to restrict nursing school enrollment at its West and Polytechnic campuses to cut costs, instead directing new students to the downtown Phoenix campus. Overall nursing enrollment won’t be cut, Renzulli said, and current students won’t be affected.

ASU officials say they have no plans to limit enrollment or cut majors.

At the West campus, walls already have been removed at some buildings to accommodate much larger classes and lectures.

The School of Global Management and Leadership on the West campus is set to merge with the W.P. Carey School of Business, and the Carey School will establish an MBA program on the West campus.

Faculty members fear the cuts will hurt the West campus’ atmosphere of a small liberal-arts college.

“We feel at the West campus that we are being stripped to the bone in order to build the downtown campus,” said Majia Nadesan, an associate professor of communications who has taught at the West campus for 14 years.

“They like to say we’re all one university and geography doesn’t matter, but geography does matter,” the professor said.

Nadesan said morale is low.

Two West campus deans, Gary Waissi of the business school and John R. Hepburn of human services, are reverting to faculty positions and will not be replaced. Administration, chairmanships and staff are being stripped down, putting pressure on those left behind.

The turmoil is not limited to students and teachers.

Joy Butler, a 2003 graduate of the School of Global Management, wonders how much value her diploma will have now that the school no longer exists.

She described the merger with W.P. Carey as a “hostile takeover,” although university administrators said the move will benefit students and allow them to earn an MBA from a nationally ranked business school. Renzulli emphasized that every campus will be affected.

“Everybody feels terrible,” he said. “This is not an ASU issue. This is not even an Arizona issue. This is a global issue.

“We are in tough economic times. This is not something we want to do.”

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