Liberal arts and science faculty discuss budget deficit


A side view of Catt Hall at Iowa State University.

Iowa State faculty have expressed both concern and interest in LAS Reimagined, addressing budget shortfalls within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Faculty have planned to present and suggest changes to the initiative this March to communicate their department’s needs.

The LAS Reimagined program proposes that the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
cut their budgets in response to new enrollment and student demand. The initiative was first announced to department chairs in February 2022.

Some departments are expected to experience significant budget cuts; however, faculty members are hopeful and willing to communicate what would benefit their department.

According to Dave Peterson, a professor in political science , the department had already come together to discuss changes they wanted to implement before LAS Reimagined was announced.

The process of this new implementation consists of more than budget cuts. Faculty are planning to take initiative regarding their curriculum and plans for the next year to justify their beliefs regarding what courses will continue to be offered.

“Political science had actually already started the process; we were a couple of months ahead of the game and had an external review of our program,” Peterson said.

Peterson said his department has already lost three faculty members in the last year to retirement. The program must continue making changes to account for its incoming students and current class sizes.

“We were thinking about how we can redesign our curriculum [and] how we can communicate what the department offers,” Peterson said.

Peterson said the political science department was more than happy to make changes and improvements based on where they were most needed, adding that the college’s new plan only set it in motion.

Kathleen Hilliard, an associate professor in history, discussed how important it is to have a vision when entering into a plan as big as this one.

“It would be more helpful for us all if we knew what we were working towards and had some organizing vision that all of the departments could work together,” Hilliard said.

Hilliard said she spent a total of three years focusing on career development and the future within their graduate program before the implementation plan was announced. She is still unsure if the graduate program will continue after the new plans are announced.

“We’re coming up on the anniversary, and as I continue to talk to my colleagues, we’ve been ruminating on this all and wishing that we could implement some of the ideas we see in other places and implement them here,” Hilliard said.

Many departments have a chance to meet with the dean and discuss proposals that they have for their departments.

David Alexander, an associate professor of philosophy and religious studies, shared his initial reaction to the news that their department would receive significant budget cuts.

“We were kind of surprised at the extent of the budget,” Alexander said. “I think a lot of programs in general were, not just us, so there was a sense of surprise.”

Alexander said the department’s main goal is to preserve as much as possible of their existing department, focusing on how it functions and the overall experience for current students.

“We really want to make sure that we can offer students the same kinds of experiences that we’ve been offering over the years,” Alexander said.

Pamela Riney-Kehrberg, a distinguished professor of history, discussed why the department hopes they will still be able to maintain the same quality of teaching for years to come.

For other departments within the college, this new implementation plan changes some major aspects of its program. Riney-Kehrberg said that the history department took a significant hit, but some faculty still hold out hope for their program and the future.

“I hope that even with the budget cutting that we will be able to maintain the quality of our offerings, that we’ll be able to maintain the program for our majors [and] that we will be able to maintain the enormous amount of teaching we do for our students,” Riney-Kehrberg said.