On November 17, Luther College faculty passed an academic prioritization proposal to restructure Luther’s spending to fit the changing demographics and interests of Luther college students. This proposal will eliminate the equivalent of 27 faculty positions. The Curriculum Committee, responsible for curricular advising at Luther College, made the motion for the reduction in response to the student body’s changing size.
Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the College Kevin Kraus and President Jenifer K. Ward established an Academic Prioritization Task Force, charged with planning the logistics of how an academic restructuring could be accomplished. In spring and summer 2020, the Task Force studied the issue and produced a report in August proposing to decrease the total number of full-time equivalent members of faculty, or FTE.
“What is happening is a combination of broad cumulative effects of deferred action and monumental changes in higher education,” said Associate Professor of Management and Economics Tony Mutsune, a member of the Curriculum Committee. “The manifestations all around us are low enrollments, increasing costs, falling net-tuition revenues. Luther is not an exception.”
Associate Professor of Physics Erin Flater (‘01), who also serves on the Curriculum Committee, agrees that these changes are a necessary response to changing demographics.
“There have been reductions in the number of students coming to Luther,” Flater said. “There are fewer people being born in the country, and fewer 18-year-olds want to go to college. This is not just because of the pandemic.”
According to an email sent by President Ward, four academic programs will be eliminated: Biblical Languages, Chinese Studies, Library and Information Studies, and Linguistics.
18 other programs will be retained but will have to reduce their department size and spending. Though the number of FTE positions at Luther College will be decreasing, that does not mean that faculty members are going to be fired, or that people will spontaneously be out of a job. According to Flater, many of these FTE reductions will take place in the form of planned retirements.
“There are already people who are planning to retire in the next five years, and that is part of the process that we are just deciding not to replace those faculties,” Flater said. “There is a process for figuring out who might retire and who might leave willingly and who might switch to a different position in the college.”