The Academic Planning Committee held a virtual public hearing on Wednesday to discuss the proposed elimination of the hospitality, restaurant and tourism management program in the College of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources.
The elimination of the program is part of the proposed Phase 2 budget reductions that the University of Nebraska-Lincoln announced in September.
The budget hearing was open to all who wished to attend, and nearly 50 people logged on to Zoom to take part. The hearing lasted just over an hour, which gave time for 3 faculty members to argue in defense of the hospitality, restaurant and tourism management program as well as other affected programs and departments.
Kurt Geisinger, professor of educational psychology and director of the Buros Center for Testing, said academics at UNL needed a 9.1% cut due to the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on university and state budgets.
“Those making the cuts, those on this committee and those certainly affected in programs such as yourself are not taking this task lightly at all,” Geisinger said.
Myunghwa Kang, associate professor of hospitality, restaurant and tourism management, said that the program was neither small nor duplicative of the HRTM department in the College of Education and Human Sciences.
“Because I have worked with and advised CASNR students for many years, I am familiar with the reasoning behind the students wanting to study at CASNR instead of CEHS,” Kang said. “A good portion of students were from small farming communities in Nebraska and preferred the culture of East Campus to the downtown city life. Students appreciated the personal attention they got with CASNR faculty.”
Kang said that the future of the HRTM program is bright, and the new opportunities available to students after the pandemic, and once The Scarlet Hotel on Nebraska Innovation Campus opens next summer, are worth the wait.
“It is time to invest in the future and to the students of our great state of Nebraska,” Kang said. “COVID-19 will eventually pass and the demand for tourism will come back stronger than ever, and the HRTM departments of CASNR and CEHS hope to be there as a team to emerge as one of the leaders, not only in the United States, but in the world.”
Steve Kolbe, associate professor of virtual production, interactive media and cinematic arts, spoke on behalf of the Faculty Senate Executive Committee. The FSEC statement said that the university’s methods of communication were concerning and not substantial given the circumstances.
Kolbe said that affected faculty members of each department were not given sufficient notice prior to the public announcement of the cuts.
Kolbe also said the FSEC has concerns about removing Kang, who is a female tenured faculty member and not a native speaker of English. Kang also is the sole faculty member of her department and was forced to figure out how to fight for her position with little aid from the university, according to Kolbe.
“The severing of a tenured and promoted faculty member who is female, and a member of an underrepresented group demands, in our view, greater vigilance because the university has claimed to want to improve the experiences of minority faculty on campus and has claimed to want to increase the number of minority faculty,” Kolbe said.
Kolbe also said the FSEC had questions about the administrations’ accountability and whether or not the administration is acting out of institutional bias.
Regina Werum, professor of sociology, spoke on behalf of the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design, as well as all other departments at risk of being cut.
“We urge the APC to recommend against the elimination of entire departments without extensive brainstorming of alternative solutions and thoughtful discussion with the faculty,” Werum said. “The creative problem solving that can be generated by shared governance, resulting in trustworthy and compassionate leadership, is what is needed in these tumultuous times.”
The APC will make its final recommendation in November on the preservation or elimination of departments and programs, including the hospitality, restaurant and tourism management program in CASNR and the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design.