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Open Letters Take Aim at Marquette Budget Cuts

Faculty at Marquette University released a pair of open letters Thursday supporting the humanities and criticizing the administration’s plans for faculty and program cuts.

This semester the administration predicted a $45 million shortfall by 2022, exacerbated by the pandemic but due mostly to demographic changes that stand to impact enrollment. Officials at the university have said that long-term solutions will likely involve faculty and staff reductions, potentially to the tune of 225 to 300 layoffs. Faculty have been told that the College of Arts and Sciences could be cut by 25 percent.

One of the open letters was from faculty in STEM disciplines at the university and was written to support continued investment in the humanities. The 54 signatories expressed a belief that the humanities are necessary to ensure commitment to Jesuit traditions, maintain competition with peer institutions and enable student success.

“Scientists graduating from Marquette need to be effective communicators, humanistic-oriented, ethical and compassionate leaders; they must have a deep understanding of the human condition, dynamics of complex communities, and the environment,” the letter said. “Our majors can only gain these critical skills if Marquette maintains its commitments to both teaching and research excellence in the humanities and social sciences. To reduce and undermine these strengths is not only a betrayal of Marquette’s Jesuit mission, but a betrayal of the students who chose to study the sciences in the context of a Jesuit commitment to liberal arts education.”

The Faculty Council also released an open letter Thursday, addressed to the Academic Senate, the Board of Trustees and the executive leadership team. The letter enumerated concerns about the budget cuts and Marquette’s historical spending patterns while proposing alternative ways to save money. The proposed budget cuts could impact Marquette’s ranking in U.S. News & World Report — limiting its ability to survive a crisis, the council argued — and declines in the quality of education could hurt tuition revenue.

Publicly available data the council collected shows Marquette outpacing Jesuit peers in increasing advertising, travel, office and consulting expenses, as well as compensation for upper administrators. The letter proposed several alternatives to planned budget cuts, such as cutting discretionary spending and selling property.

Marquette officials have previously said that comparisons to other Jesuit institutions are not worth much because of how different colleges and universities classify expenses. The scale of the projected shortfall, they have said, cannot be solved without cuts to academics.

Some faculty and instructors at Marquette have also been involved in an effort with peers at other Jesuit institutions to stop austerity at their colleges.

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