Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Florida Atlantic University's first student-run news source.


Pushing Away the Professors

Senior Sarah Rew only has five classes left until graduation. However, she won’t be able to walk across the stage until the summer of 2009. The exercise science and health promotion major says that due to class offerings being cut, her graduation gets pushed back.

“I have a class that is supposed to start [June 23] and there are six students that are registered,” Rew says. “[The department] says they’re going to cancel the class if four more kids don’t register in the next two weeks.”

But it’s not just in the cutting of classes that Rew feels repercussions. Last semester, one of her classes that was supposed to have 20 students was doubled due to fewer instructors. Rew says the increase in enrollment didn’t help the learning process.

“Since we’re studying in-depth things about the muscles and how the body works, we need smaller classes to learn better,” Rew says. “A lot of kids didn’t do well in that class.”

Less availability, larger classes and fewer instructors are just the beginning for students like Rew. In the fall, students will have close to 130 fewer faculty and staff at FAU due to hiring freezes. While nearly 100 of them are already vacant positions, some employee contracts will not be renewed, forcing those to relocate to other areas of the university where the positions open are vital for operations.

One of those “vital” positions belongs to Gregg Fields, chair of the chemistry department, who is leaving his post in July after eight years. Heading to the University of Texas, Fields says his main focus will be on research.

“My primary motivation was not because I was dissatisfied [at FAU],” Fields says. “There’s a lack of vision coming out of the state legislature.”

University Faculty Senate President Eric Shaw says upcoming vacant positions like Fields’ are not only a burden on the students, but it’s unfortunate for the employees, too.

“It’s demoralizing for faculty,” Shaw says. “Due to denied raises for a second year in a row, [some faculty] are anchored here with economic situations.”

According to an April 2008 research study done by the Florida Board of Governors (BOG) – the 17-member group that manages the state university system – Florida has the worst student-to-faculty ratio in the nation with 31-1. To get to the national average of 25-1, Shaw says that FAU must hire 180 new faculty members, which isn’t possible with the state hiring freeze. For all state universities, Florida must hire nearly 2,000 faculty members to meet the national average.

Fields says that the state needs to have a realistic budget where a shortfall of funding doesn’t trickle down to other institutions. Because of the budget cuts, Fields can’t do the research that is so important to his concentration.

“[At Texas], one of the attractive offers was an endowment chair – money the school sets aside for you and your research,” Fields says. “A lot of institutions in Florida don’t have that.”

Communication professor Becky Mulvaney, who has been at FAU for over 20 years, says that it’s going to be harder for the university to keep good faculty with the way the economy is going.

“Florida in general pays [its teachers] very low,” Mulvaney says. “I think morale is low. Everything is going up but our paychecks.”

Mulvaney echoes Fields in that FAU’s drive to do more research isn’t working out.

“FAU is trying to be a research institution, but they can’t be without faculty to do research.”

Eric Shaw says that despite the drastic cuts FAU is implementing this year, the cut are more than likely not going to end right away.

“It will last for another one-and-a-half to two years, then we will work our way out,” Shaw says. “The [state university] system will break if the economy doesn’t change.”

Sound Off

“We need smaller classes to learn better.”– Sara Rew, Senior, Exercise Science

“Everything is going up but our paychecks.”– Becky Mulvaney, Communication professor

“Due to denied raises for a second year in a row, [some faculty] are anchored here with economic situations.”– Eric Shaw, University Faculty Senate President

“There’s a lack of vision coming out of the state legislature.”– Gregg Fields, Chair of the chemistry department

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