Modern language, music departments feel brunt of UWRF budget cuts

Posted March 30, 2016

The modern language and music departments will see the most significant changes next academic year as a result of the $1.5 million budget reduction to the UW-River Falls College of Arts and Sciences.

Modern Language Chair Kris Butler said that all of the languages except for Spanish and Japanese are expected to be discontinued. The courses in Chinese may be offered again, but this is still being determined. As part of the budget cut, German and French courses will no longer be offered. German and French majors and minors who are close to completing their requirements will be able to work through a registration plan and finish, but no new students will be accepted to the programs.

Butler, meanwhile, has decided to resign at the end of this academic year, in part because the money that would be used to pay for her teaching and acting as department chair can be used to save some of the language courses. Butler said that the past five years have been difficult because of consistent budget cuts, but her love of teaching always made it worth it. That is no longer the case.

“Unfortunately, I guess I’ve gotten to a point that, as much as I love teaching, it’s not enough anymore. It’s not enough,” Butler said. “I don’t feel like I can any longer swallow what I have to swallow to promote this campus as a department chair.”

Butler said that she is sad to be leaving and still believes in the university because of the faculty. She said that she has loved her 15 years at UWRF but felt that she needed to set an example for her students and preserve her integrity by resigning.

“My students are really important to me, and I really wish the absolute best for their education,” Butler said. “I’m not leaving because I don’t care. I’m leaving because I care enough to stand up.”

One of the students affected by the changes to modern language is Karen Helver, a nontraditional student of junior standing. Helver said that she has five courses remaining to meet her requirements for her French emphasis and is unsure if she will be able to complete them after the cuts. She said that she feels there is a contract between herself and the university that she wants to see upheld.

“They need to make a plan, because in my book, they made a contract with me, and they better damn sure meet it because I’ve been meeting mine,” Helver said. “And if they’re going to bill me, they need to make sure they educate me per our contract.”

Helver said that she and her son, who is a music student and also of junior standing, bought a house in River Falls after Helver was attracted to UWRF because of the modern language program. She said that she is disappointed because she now worries about her son’s academic standing, as well.

The music department is taking a nearly $200,000 cut as part of the reductions. Chair Kristin Tjornehoj said that chamber ensembles and one-on-one training will be facing changes as a result.

The only chamber ensembles being retained at this point are the ones required for music students to complete their degrees. Any additional ensembles offered by the department were eliminated. Tjornehoj said that she expected approximately nine ensembles to be cut entirely, but was trying to offer them through UWRF’s Outreach and Continuing Education Department, which would allow students to take the ensembles for a fee instead of not at all.

Music students have always taken one hour per week of one-on-one training, Tjornehoj added. This is being cut in half beginning in the fall, and students will have the option to receive the other 30 minutes for $350 each semester, a fee that was previously only charged to non-majors.

“Hopefully they will care enough to want to pay additional fees for additional classes, courses, lessons, et cetera,” Tjornehoj said.

The General Education courses offered by the department are also being reduced. Tjornehoj said that the department has previously served approximately 1,000 students each semester in courses like Understanding Music (Music 100), History of Jazz (Music 255) and World Music (Music 300). Those courses and sections will be reduced significantly, and some sections of Understanding Music will be moved to the North Hall auditorium and hold over 100 students instead of 45.

“Right now on my books, I have three classes of Understanding Music instead of eight. I have one class of World Music instead of three,” Tjornehoj said. “I did decide to retain History of Jazz because our music majors need it.”

Tjornehoj said that the changes to the department are not over. During the next academic year, courses could be redesigned, including potentially combining subjects while still meeting accreditation standards.