Cuts: SDSU still feeling the blow

Emma Dejong

It has been almost five months since SDSU officials announced their plan to deal with a 10-percent reduction in state appropriations.

People have lost their jobs, departments have closed, systems have been restructured and academic programs have been eliminated.

“Business as usual cannot be sustained,” President David Chicoine said in his April 11 Monday Morning Message. “These changes will have an impact on people, programs and operations.”

That impact will be evident this fall as plans to balance the budget have been put into action.

Agricultural Experiment Station

The Agricultural Experiment Station was hit with $1.2 million in cuts from the State. Changes have been made to accommodate those reductions, as well as the potential for more reductions in the future.

“The most obvious difference is reduced services,” said Thomas Cheesbrough, the former interim AES director. “We had to close research stations and two service labs.”

The labs that closed were the Olson Biochemistry Analytical Services Laboratory and the Soil and Plant Tissue Testing Laboratory. The research stations were located in Miller and Highmore, S.D.

Dunn and Cheesbrough said the services that these labs provided to farmers and ranchers are likely available commercially.

“The effect – we hope – will be minimal, but there still will be an effect,” Cheesbrough said. “They will have to go someplace else for those services.”

The other major action taken was to move 99 faculty members from 12-month to 10-month contracts. If these faculty wish to continue receiving a year-round salary, their pay for the two off-months must come from unguaranteed grants.

“There is anywhere from a five to 50-percent chance [for faculty to receive the grant they apply for],” Cheesbrough said. “It’s a very tough, competitive world.”

The university was able to come up with the money to buffer one year, but then the system will be in place.

Dunn said having 10-month contracts is not unusual.

“It’s a very typical model in higher education,” Dunn said. “It was a shock here.”

Dunn and Cheesbrough said AES is anticipating more financial cuts. The Federal budget will announce their decisions “hopefully by Oct. 1,” Cheesbrough said. The State will announce its budget in March.

“We anticipated a $550,000 cut (for AES and Extension) when we built this thing,” Dunn said. “I’m concerned it may exceed that.”

Extension reorganization

By the end of October, SDSU Extension will have a completely new system up-and-running.

Instead of having a physical presence in every South Dakota county, Extension will now have a regional center in eight locations: Aberdeen, Lemmon, Mitchell, Pierre, Rapid City, Sioux Falls, Watertown and Winner.

“The idea was to go where people are,” said Barry Dunn, dean of the College of Agriculture and Biological Sciences and Extension director.

A total rehiring is also part of the restructuring. In April, 110 people were notified of their termination effective Oct. 21. Just 65 field specialist positions will be re-filled – by both returning Extension employees and people who are completely new.

Dunn said this change is necessary, but “it also hurt a lot of people.”

“I think this is the right thing to do given the constraints we have,” he said, “but I think it’s sad, too. These people were the bricks and mortar of rural communities for over 100 years.”

Dunn said the 65 new specialists will have an increased salary, as well as increased requirements. They must either have a master’s degree or have a plan to get one in five years.

Interviews for these positions ended Aug. 29, and job offers will begin mid-to-late September.

Karla Trautman, the new assistant to the director of Extension, has been overseeing the transition to the new Extension.

“I think our biggest challenge is going to be to prove to citizens that we’re still as accessible to them as we have been in the past,” Trautman said.

Natural Resources Department 

The Board of Regents approved SDSU’s newest department, Natural Resource Management, on Aug. 9. The research and class work in this department is not new – it’s just been moved around.

“It’s hectic and we’re scrambling, but we’ll be OK,” Department Head David Willis said.

The NRM replaced the Wildlife and Fisheries Sciences Department, and the Horticulture, Forestry, Landscape and Parks Department were eliminated.

Already-existing programs that will now be a part of NRM include Range Science (from the Department of Animal and Range Sciences) and Ecology and Environmental Science (from the Department of Biology and Microbiology).

Also, there will be three undergraduate majors offered, instead of one: ecology and environmental science, range science, and wildlife and fisheries sciences.

Willis said there are two main reasons for the creation of this new department.

“The first and foremost is the budget cuts,” Willis said.

The second, he said, is that combining people with a similar skill set improves the work and research that is done.

“[Dean Barry Dunn] is hoping to get some synergy here,” Willis said. “And I think that’s already starting to happen.”