Students React to SRA Recommendations to Cut and Downsize Programs

Bridgewater College Administration Addresses Student Concerns in Town Hall

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  • Bridgewater College Students question whether there was a collaboration between the administration, faculty and the student body regarding the SRA recommendations. The recommendations intend to cut six majors and several minors, as well as some athletic programs.

  • Bridgewater College students write in chalk on the sidewalk to express their disappointment over the recommendations of the SRA process.

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Shayne Williamson and Laraya Billups

Bridgewater, Va. – On Oct. 13, President David Bushman invited students to engage in a Zoom townhall to address questions and concerns about the Strategic Resource Allocation recommendations released on Oct. 6. 

Bushman was joined by Provost Leona Sevick, Dean of Students Leslie Frere, Vice President of Finance Anne Keeler and Director of Athletics Curt Kendall. Associate Vice President for Marketing and Communications Abbie Parkhurst moderated the session asking the panel questions submitted by BC students.

Bushman began the town hall by explaining that the results of the SRA recommendations can be “the hardest thing for a student to appreciate or understand” due to the dismissal of programs and faculty members at the end of the academic year. 

“There’s no college in the country right now who can raise tuition fast enough or raise donor dollars fast enough to do everything we’d like to do at the moment we’d like to do it,” said Bushman. 

Student Involvement

In an effort to combat rising tuition costs, Bridgewater College has entered the SRA process by “looking at programs closely to make sure your tuition dollars are used most effectively for the greatest benefit to the greatest number,” said Bushman. 

Bushman acknowledged in the town hall meeting that the SRA process may benefit prospective students in the future but have “negative effects on students today.”

Kylee Lorio, a junior with a pre-law concentration, one of the concentrations potentially affected by the SRA process, provided a different perspective on why the SRA process may also carry some negative effects on prospective students.

“Everyone coming from here on out will lose the opportunity to have a title for employers in their specialized field, despite still being required to take everything for that specialized field,” said Lorio.

When asked why students have not been involved in the SRA process, Bushman said students are often not included in operational decisions made by colleges. 

“We don’t involve our family, alumni or students in operational decisions. We never do. It’s just not how a college operates,” said Bushman.

According to Bushman, decisions that students can control are mainly whether to enroll in a certain college or transfer. 

“I hope every single one of you decides that being at Bridgewater is the right decision, but if you are passionate about one of the programs that’s leaving, there may be another institution that’s a better fit for you. No college can be all things to all people anymore,” said Bushman.

Effect on Athletics

Another topic discussed during the town hall meeting is the athletic teams that are candidates for phase-out or restructuring, including men’s golf, dance and equestrian. One student asked if an athletic program could remain if it received another method of funding, and Bushman believed it “sounds like a great idea, but donations are not enough to cover the cost of the program.”

Bushman listed a number of factors that led to the suggestion of eliminating men’s golf and downsizing the equestrian team, including “the history of the program, amount of students involved and balance between cost and number of students.” 

There was never a “single factor,” said Bushman. 

Effects on Campus Life

Many students were concerned about the various faculty members who were laid off due to the SRA process and budget cuts. 

One student, junior Kyana Chery, expressed her feelings about the faculty cuts, saying “It’s upsetting to hear about the cutting of majors, minors and clubs. BC is a liberal arts college; however, if they are cutting the language departments and shortening staff in other areas of studies, then it de-legitimizes the foundation of Bridgewater being a liberal arts college.”

The English department was given as an example of a department that notified some faculty members that their jobs would conclude in June 2021. The department is “almost exclusively full-time faculty,” said Bushman. 

Some full-time faculty members affected will be replaced by adjunct professors who are part-time. 

“We’ll be very judicious about what courses we have taught by adjunct faculty. It’s a decision we’ve given quite a bit of thought,” said Sevick.

“That wouldn’t be anyone’s first preference, but you should know that we rely much more on our full-time faculty far more than any of our peer institutions, and that’s just not affordable,” said Bushman. 

Student Life is also recommended for restructuring within Residence Life, student activities and campus recreation; however, these plans have not been finalized.

“Plans have certainly been developed, but they’re not in great detail,” said Frere. “Clubs will not be cut. If there is any student interest to form a club or maintain a club, we will support that club.”

Planning for the Future

Because 85 percent of the institution’s funding comes from students, the college especially relies on enrollment for revenue, according to Bushman. Due to COVID-19, there is less money coming in because fewer students are enrolled and on campus.

“Some of the money that we save in this process is going to make sure we have a strong financial footing for next year and the year after that,” said Bushman.

Junior Benjamin Dillon, a mathematics major, which may be affected by the SRA process, conveyed an understanding of why the school had to take these steps. 

“I completely understand the school’s reasoning for the actions taken,” said Dillon. “The majors they cut have very few graduates every year and economically the school can’t afford to keep these programs. It deeply saddens me for these professors and I wish them the best in the future.”

In the long term, Bushman desires to put more money into programs to make them stronger.

For more questions about academic programs, students can email Sevick or their advisor. For any questions about athletic programs, students can talk to their coaches or Kendall.