University at Albany eliminates languages, theater

In a town hall meeting on Oct. 1, George Phillip, president of University at Albany, said that the university will discontinue admission to several programs, though students already majoring in those departments will be able to complete their degrees.

Phillip said that the French, Italian, Russian and classics programs along with the theater department will be phased out over the next two years. The decision came as a response to more than $32 million in cuts in state funding over the past three years and further cuts on the horizon.

Such drastic funding cuts, Phillip said, required Albany to go a step beyond across-the-board cuts or one-time savings strategies, which many SUNY schools are employing in response to the cuts.

Albany's French program extends to the doctoral level while the other programs facing elimination cater to undergraduate majors and students fulfilling general education requirements.

The New York Legislature to pass the Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act, which, Phillip said, would have saved his school money by releasing it from a range of regulatory requirements.

Due to the financial burdens being placed on SUNY schools, consideration of such drastic options are necessary, said Carol Long, Geneseo's provost and vice president of academic affairs. "We have $3 million of structural deficit that necessitates discussions of curtailment."

Long said that Geneseo has not deemed the removal of entire programs a necessary option to enact thus far, but said it is being considered. "This is a time when we don't get to make the choices we want to make," she said.

Long also said that it is important to consider the benefits that curtailment could potentially bring to a college under financial stress. "One of the ways to weaken colleges is to continue to take cuts and make across-the-board cuts and drain the quality of everything," she said. "Curtailment can make a college stronger in the long run."

In his fall convocation address, President Christopher Dahl said: "The college's Budget Advisory Committee met at the end of the spring semester to consider criteria for program curtailment and generated a list that has been accepted by the Strategic Planning Group. The central criterion that we must not lose sight of is the college's mission - how we retain Geneseo's fundamental quality as a public liberal arts college."

The criteria on which decisions regarding curtailment of individual programs will be based are: centrality to the college's mission, quality of the program, effectiveness and efficiency, inter-relatedness to other programs, enrollment and cost per student, and effect of the potential curtailment on alumni relations.