UM proposes ending up to 8 departments Cutbacks part of $10 million savings plan.

January 31, 1992|By Lou Ferrara | Lou Ferrara,Special to The Evening Sun

COLLEGE PARK -- University of Maryland administrators propose eliminating up to eight academic departments under a $10 million cost-saving plan, according to a report released by College Park officials.

The proposal would affect more than 1,700 undergraduate and graduate students.

"By eliminating these programs, some of the bills we may have had to deal with in the future will not be there," Mr. David S. Falk, an assistant vice president for academic affairs, said yesterday.

In the short run, about $3.7 million will be saved through reduced operating costs and 270 layoffs that occurred during the past year. But another $6.3 million -- tied up in faculty salaries -- won't be saved for several years. Even though eight departments are slated for elimination, College Park administrators said, no faculty members will be fired.

Faculty members of eliminated departments will be reassigned to other academic disciplines, and officials hope to save the $6.3 million when professors leave for other jobs or retire.

When that eventually happens, they said, the positions won't be refilled, meaning less money will be spent on salaries.

According to the 46-page report, the following programs will be phased out by midyear 1993:

* Agriculture and extension education. Officials attribute the elimination "to a lack of focus in the department."

* Housing and design. "There has been a history of budgetary insufficiency" in the department, the report says.

* Radio, television and film. Officials say the department was so underfunded during past years that it would be more economical to eliminate it rather than enhance it in tough economic times.

* Urban studies. Officials plan to preserve the urban studies graduate program.

* Industrial, technological and occupational education. Officials said that while the program offers courses beneficial to the state, low enrollment led to its demise.

* Recreation. Administrators cited "the quality of the faculty" as the main reason for eliminating it.

* College of the human ecology. Officials plan to redistribute most of the majors, essentially eliminating the administrative structure.

* Textiles and consumer economics. This is the only program in the human ecology college that will be eliminated.

Officials began proposing eliminating academic departments when the state began handing down budget cuts to the College Park campus twoyears ago. So far, more than $17 million has been taken from academic programs.

While the report only details $10 million in cuts, officials have accounted for the additional $7 million by cutting operating costs and maintaining a hiring freeze for two years.

College Park officials originally proposed eliminating 10 departments and two colleges, but decided to save the colleges of library and information services, nuclear engineering, microbiology, and hearing and speech sciences within the past two months.

News of the final recommendations, which now must be endorsed by the College Park Campus Senate and the University of Maryland System Board of Regents, demoralized some faculty members.

"It's about time somebody heard of us; I just wish it wasn't with something like this," said Ms. Jo B. Paoletti, textiles and consumer economics department chairwoman. "Some money will be saved, but I don't think it will be that much."

Mr. Seppo E. Iso-Ahola, chairman of the recreation department, said he was disappointed to find out his program will be ended since recreation students and professors staged protests to save it.

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