PoliSci, IR department struggles with budget cuts

Geneseo’s political science and international relations department is one of several academic areas heavily affected by the 2008 economic recession and subsequent state educational budget cuts.

“The budget cuts have resulted in each department budget being reduced by approximately 36 percent,” said professor Jeffrey Koch, chair of the political science and international relations department. “We lost several thousand dollars. Had we not, we would have been able to do some things to facilitate the educational experience for students.”

“Under the current budget, we have been unable to replace the faculty member that left in 2009,” said Koch. “We have had to fill courses with adjuncts who have less experience with teaching. This has reduced the breadth of our curriculum. Our tenured faculty members have had to pick up in terms of service work.”

According to Koch, the increased emphasis on adjuncts has not been beneficial for students.

 “Adjuncts are less available and, since they usually teach for only one year, students do not get repeated exposure to their professors. This has made it harder for students to build good faculty-student relationships,” said Koch.

The budget cuts have also had a negative impact on the faculty-student ratio within the department. This is especially true in the upper-level courses, as enrollment in these classes has increased while the number of tenured faculty members remains at eight.

This increasingly adverse ratio has also affected the advisement process.

“We have the highest ratio of faculty to advisees in Geneseo and amongst comprehensive colleges,” said Koch. “We currently stand at 60 students per faculty member. Our ratios were quite high to begin with, at 50-1, but this increase has made it harder to develop good relationships with advisors. Our faculty feel particularly overburdened during advisement.”

The reduced budget also impacted the variety of department courses offered.

Despite the overwhelming combination of increased enrollment in the program and decreased financial resources, Koch said faculty members remain committed.

“No one is happy about the budget, but there is an understanding among the faculty that there are forces that no one at Geneseo controls,” said Koch. “It has been a result of a sluggish economy, state budget shortfalls and state priorities with higher education. We have to deal with it, and we are not blaming anyone here.”

Administration has expressed some awareness of the predicament within the department.

“We were helped this year by being allowed to hire a visiting professor for a year,” said Koch. “It gave us an opportunity to add more breadth to the curriculum. We will have two visiting professor positions for next year. It appears that there is some light at the end of the tunnel.”