College of Agriculture’s faculty, staff losing morale due to state budget cuts, internal callbacks

(Graphic by Audrey Hockersmith)

While the College of Agriculture has managed to not have to raise the fees charged to Kansas State agriculture students, the college has had difficulties maintaining the morale of faculty and staff due to not being able to offer raises and more competitive salaries.

“We haven’t been able to provide salary raises, particularly merit raises, to most of our staff,” John Floros, dean of the College of Agriculture, said. “There has been some support for faculty in terms of promotions, but we haven’t been able to reward our best people, and that has made us vulnerable to losing our best people.”

Floros said he has had to take back many of the positions that are vacated, either because of retirement or because somebody left the university, and use those unused funds to fill cuts, allotments and reallocations.

Don Boggs, associate dean in the College of Agriculture, said the cuts that impacted the college are complicated compared to the College of Engineering’s cuts and callbacks.

“The teaching programs in agriculture had a cash callback of about $380,000 last spring, and then a cut to our base budget of $390,000 this summer,” Boggs said.

While the university as a whole saw declining enrollment this year, the College of Agriculture’s enrollment increased. More agriculture students are now taught by fewer faculty.

“In essence, we now have less faculty and staff than we did a few years ago,” Floros said. “Student population has gone up, research has gone up, many of the things we do have increased, but we have less faculty and less staff to do the job.”

Kris Boone, professor and department head of communications and agricultural education, said the lack of raises seen in the College of Agriculture is a large area of concern, as some of the college’s employees have not seen cost of living increases for seven years.

“It is really frustrating where our hands are tied on how we can reward our faculty,” Boone said. “Our faculty are still fantastically committed, and that is what makes these cuts tough. There is only so much we can do.”

Floros said he is doing what he can to preserve the college’s faculty positions, but that the morale of his people is in a decline.

“As a result, I’m afraid our students might see a slightly lower quality of work being done,” Floros said.

The college has more than doubled the amount of money they bring in for competitive grants and research, Floros said, since they intensified their efforts a few years ago. However, even with their improved efforts, the College of Agriculture still has less faculty teaching than it once did.

“We’re trying to preserve our faculty positions as much as possible, because faculty are our engine,” Floros said. “If we don’t have faculty we can’t do teaching, we can’t do research and we can’t do extension or outreach. So we’re trying to preserve our faculty positions as much as possible, but when you have consecutive cuts, it becomes inevitable.”

In addition to the teaching programs’ cuts and callbacks, other programs within the college have also been affected, particularly in K-State Research and Extension. K-State Research and Extension received a callback of about $2.3 million and a base cut of $2.2 million.

“While (K-State Research and Extension) is involved in several college’s, the largest share of their budget supports work in the College of Agriculture,” Boggs said.

Dealing with budget cuts

Floros said that even the most popular programs in the college will find a way to deal with cuts.

“But it is getting harder and harder to find instructors and faculty to teach classes,” Floros said. “The size of our classes has become bigger. Mentoring and advising of students has become more difficult because every faculty member has more students to advise. So everything has become more difficult, and the morale of people and staff is not what is used to be.”

Wyatt Pracht, senior in agricultural economics and student senator for the College of Agriculture, said it is unfortunate the college is forced to make these cuts.

“As a student, I think it is very negative that we have a less amount of faculty giving less time and attention to students, especially when we’re trying to learn and grow, which is why we came to college in the first place,” Pracht said. “As a senator, I am against unnecessary tuition and fee raises. It’s a burden on students and we should do what we can to lessen that cost.”

Floros said he does not intend to increase any agriculture fees in the near future.

“(The deans) are doing everything in their power to make sure students don’t have to pay more,” Emily Beneda, senior in food science and industry, said. “But it’s harder and harder with this growth we’re having; we need more faculty.”

Beneda, last year’s College of Agriculture representative on the Tuition and Fees Strategies Committee, said she believes the deans are doing everything they can to avoid requesting a student fee increase from the committee.

“We have intensified our efforts to raise money from other sources, such as philanthropy, foundations and private companies that are assisting us to produce a better product,” Floros said. “We’re trying to find more companies that will subsidize instructor positions and scholarships for our students.”

Floros said he believes the best way to improve the economy of the state is for people to continue to invest in higher education and to continue to invest in K-State.

Editor’s note: This is the second in a series analyzing the effects of budget cuts on the colleges at Kansas State and their students. Next week’s story will look at the College of Business.

Hi, I'm Kaitlyn Alanis, former news editor for the Collegian and a May 2017 graduate in agricultural communications and journalism. I have never tried a hamburger and I hate the taste of coffee, but I love writing stories and sharing what I learn with our readers. By writing for the Collegian, I can now not only sing along when the K-State Band plays "The Band is Hot," but I also know that most agriculture students did not grow up on a farm, how to use an AED to save someone's life and why there is a bust of MLK Jr. outside of Ahearn Field House. Thanks for reading!