Graduate students at University of Akron are on edge as they wait to learn which assistantships–jobs worked by grad students in exchange for free tuition–the university plans to do away with as part of budget cuts announced last week.
Monique Mullett, president of University of Akron’s Graduate Student Government, has spent the past week fielding questions from anxious students who worry their assistantships and stipends are those slated for the chopping block. “I have students saying, ‘I need to know what’s going to happen, and figure out what my next step is,’” Mullett says.
She has been trying to get details from university officials about the coming cuts, but so far, Mullett says, school officials have not provided a timeframe for when they will announce exactly what assistantships will be dropped, or the number of them.
President Scott Scarborough announced last week the university will reduce the number of assistantships it offers in order to save money, as the school contends with major declines in enrollment. Scarborough did not provide figures or details regarding the cuts.
Mullett says she asked Scarborough about details of the coming cuts, and he referred her to the Dean of Graduate Schools. Mullett says the dean has not yet scheduled a meeting with her.
“All we’ve been told is that they are reviewing the situation,” Mullett says. “It’s stressful. Students are concerned. It’s causing morale on campus to drop considerably.”
Taylor Swift, president of undergraduate student government, says he also has been barraged with questions about the budget cuts. “It’s frustrating; our constituents want us to find something out and we can’t get an answer,” Swift says. “It’s been the M.O. of this administration. They don’t give specific answers to anything.”
The increasingly unpopular president said last week that enrollment at University of Akron has dropped from a high of about 30,000 students to just over 25,000 this year. At the same time, donations to the school have plummeted since controversy erupted this summer over cuts to the budget that coincided with the university raising the salaries of administrators. Administrators also came under fire when it was learned the university spent nearly $1 million to renovate the university home inhabited by Scarborough.
Following last week’s announcement, graduate student Thomas Guarino began circulating a petition calling on Scarborough to resign. Faculty, students, alumni and others in the community have held multiple protests over the past several months, at meetings of the board of trustees and during Scarborough’s state of the university address.
In response to questions about the cuts, Director of Media Relations Dan Minnich sent out this statement written by Executive Dean of The University of Akron’s Graduate School Chand K. Midha, Ph.D: “As has occurred throughout the University, we are in the early stages of carefully and comprehensively reviewing the Graduate School to ensure that funds are used effectively and in an economically sustainable way to further our academic mission. This current review is only for graduate degree tuition remission and stipend funding for masters, doctoral and Ph.D. candidates. Clearly, there will continue to be graduate assistants at UA but the funding model may be modified to be more aligned with national norms. Any potential changes will be reviewed and discussed with the Graduate Council as well as the University’s Board of Trustees.”