By Heather Newlin, Chattanooga, Tenn. — Students and faculty alike are feeling the changes campus wide that resulted from the 2015 UTC Voluntary Retirement Incentive Program (VRIP), part of the budget rebalancing that took place last year.
As a result of the VRIP, a large number of staff and faculty retired, and the 2015-2016 school year hosted a much smaller, full-time faculty who focused on working to ensure that classes would still be offered.
Dr. Joe Wilferth, UC Foundation Professor and associate dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said, “We do our best to offer classes that students need because, put simply, we don’t want to hinder a student’s progression toward graduation. Doing so would be a disservice to the students and to the university itself since our performance-based funding formula uses degree completion as one metric for funding.”
Communications students, for example, represent one of the largest majors on campus: 411 majors and 90 minors, with only eight-and-a-half full-time faculty members, according to Dr. Betsy Alderman, communication department head and Luther Masingill Professor.
Upperclassmen in many departments with high-demand classes like communications noticed the smaller list of classes this year. Departments are actively working to add sections to programs that need it.
MarQuais Kinsey, a junior from Jackson, Tenn., said he saw that sections of necessary classes were added in the communications department this year in response to high student demand for them.
Dr. Alderman said, “We have a great need for more faculty. The Communication Department is in the process of hiring two faculty members now, a new position as an assistant professor and a department head because I am leaving this spring.
The College of Arts and Sciences, according Dr. Wilferth, is “currently conducting numerous hires for faculty to replace those who retired via the VRIP.”
Similarly, The College of Business is also in the process of replacing a couple of retirements, while also trying to hire a department head and chaired professor, according to Dr. Dooley, Dean of the College of Business.
According to Dr. Wilferth, in order for a department to hire new faculty, “each new faculty hire must be approved by the dean of the respective college. Then each department head assembles a committee to conduct the search for the new faculty member.”