December Q&A Gives Voice to TFMS Budget Concerns

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On Dec. 12, 2013, growing concern over possible budget cuts within the Theater, Film, and Media Studies (TFMS) department resulted in a Question and Answer session between students and Beth Rushing, Dean of Faculty at St. Mary’s College of Maryland. One of the chief concerns of the students and educators in TFMS was the elimination of part-time positions within the department, and how this would ultimately affect student’s ability to complete their degree requirements, as well as general concern over the loss of several dedicated faculty members.

Students representing the different elements of the department first presented their cases for why the arts were essential to St. Mary’s, and why efforts should be made to preserve the budget. The case was made by a student panel that while enrollment within TFMS is small, the number of majors and minors is not representative of the number of people who use the music department as a resource; many students and faculty outside of the department take private music lessons and participate in musical organizations like choir and orchestra. Furthermore, cuts to productions and recitals would jeopardize the ability of faculty like concert pianist Brian Ganz to stay on, due to the absence of revenue he receives for performing at the college.

Junior Rachel Buxton proposed the idea of using the talents of Brian Ganz and other performing faculty to members as a fundraising tool for the college, using their talents to help fill in budget gaps and to portray the college in a positive light. Moving from music into the potential budgetary concerns within the theater, Elizabeth Porter, a senior and a theater department student liason, discussed the harm a hiring freeze would do to student’s ability’s to receive the instruction that qualifies them for a degree in Theater, and the department’s ability to do productions.

She pointed specifically to the loss of the position of scenographer, which is currently filled by Visiting Assistant Professor of Scenography Jessica Lustig. Junior Madeleine Barry echoed the impact of such a loss in her statements, and summed up the student portion well by asking that budget decisions be made at the department level, and the administration try to understand the character of the department when making these decisions.

Moving into the response portion of the meeting, the Dean of Faculty began by highlighting some of the challenges the college is facing with its current financial state. According to Rushing, the budget is currently down 1.3 million dollars from last year’s, and enrollment is unlikely to be up again for the next several years. Rushing’s current target for academic cuts is $900,000.

In the question and answer session that followed, Rushing answered several student inquiries, explaining that while not every decision the office of Academic Affairs makes regarding the budget will have the consent of the department, the Dean of Faculty will strive to make sure members of the department and students within the department are updated and aware of the budgeting process.

While the mood within the meeting was very somber and emotional, students seemed to leave with a positive feeling about the way their information had been received. Student representatives at the meeting, juniors Hannah Sturm and Valerie Holt, expressed their satisfaction with the way the session had gone. The 2014-15 budget has yet to be determined.

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