President Sam Forstag addressed the Associated Students of the University of Montana on Wednesday, Oct. 19, concerning the method the University may use to determine which programs are cut in the future.
"Program prioritization is probably the single most important thing this Senate will have the opportunity to deal with," Forstag said at the meeting on Wednesday night.
The University hosted a conference on program prioritization, which discussed methods by which both academic and nonacademic programs would be ranked in their importance and effectiveness at the University. The ranking would be essential for determining where cuts would come from in the future.
The conference was centered around the use of a model set forth by Robert Dickeson in his book "Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services: Reallocating Resources to Achieve Strategic Balance." ASUM Business Manager Chase Greenfield said the model would allocate funds to programs that had the highest participation over ones that were smaller and therefore required less funding.
"The model asks each department to rank all of their programs into five categories, from most to least priority," Greenfield said. "This includes every facet of campus — anything that receives money is considered a program. Every department has to have 20 percent of their programs in the bottom priority category."
At other universities, program prioritization has often been pushed by faculty whose departments are growing faster than their budget, while other smaller programs were receiving disproportionately higher funding, Greenfield said. So far, prioritization at UM has been sought out by the Strategic Planning Coordinating Council, the Board of Regents, and the Office of the Commissioner of Higher Education, according to Greenfield.
Students in the Arabic program spoke to the ASUM Senate in support of a resolution to pressure UM administrators to prioritize languages. One section of Arabic 102 will be cut, leaving only one section remaining and sparking frustration among the students involved.
Bradly Kelley, who represented the Model Arab League student group, expressed the impact the cut could have on enrollment at the University.
"I'm a Southerner, a Republican. Naturally, I didn't have the best understanding of Arabic culture, but now I've absolutely fallen in love with it," Kelley said. "If Arabic had been cut last year when I was taking introductory courses, I would have dropped out and gone to a different university."
Sen. Anisa Ricci and Sen. Jackson Widmyer are working on the resolution to protect the program. ASUM does not have any direct control over academic program funding but can promote their view as that of the student body to persuade administrators.