The underfunded and overburdened behavioral and social sciences college will receive a jolt of extra funding from Provost Nariman Farvardin.
The university’s largest college will receive the full $842,000 it requested from a pot of about $8 million intended for redistribution by the provost. But BSOS students, who have long complained about a lack of funds, said the increased funding is just the beginning.
“It’s a good first step, but it’s not the end,” said former Student Government Association Speaker of the Legislature Matt Lyons, who spearheaded student efforts over the past year. “This is a foundation for a continued movement to bring BSOS more resources.”
Farvardin told students he was committed to resolving the issue and he was “happy to do this,” according to Mahlon Straszheim, associate provost for academic affairs. BSOS officials and students were pleased with the provost’s decision but emphasized that it was only the beginning of a solution.
“We are incredibly appreciative,” said BSOS interim Dean Robert Schwab. “The campus understands and we understand that this is an important first step, but it’s just a first step.”
The college will use the money to bring tenure and tenure-track faculty and lecturers into the economics, government and politics, psychology and geography departments, Schwab said.
The college will use the additional money to “increase faculty and enhance the undergraduate experience,” said Assistant Dean Katherine Pedro Beardsley.
“We want our students to feel like they’re getting the same undergraduate experience,” as the rest of the university Beardsley said. “But it’s going to take time.”
BSOS students have made the case for additional funding with simple math. The college has more than 5,600 students who have paid more than $60 million in tuition, but it received only $34.8 million in state funding. The college has four of the university’s five largest majors and its average class size is 63 students, compared to 36 students for the university as a whole. According to the SGA, BSOS provides 19 percent of the university’s course offerings but receives only 9 percent of its state funding.
The provost was given the power to reallocate funds as the part of the university’s strategic plan, which passed the University Senate last year. Under the plan, each college places one percent of their state-supported funds into a pot of money for the provost to redistribute. The amount the provost allocated to BSOS is more than double what the college contributed to the pot. The provost’s office will officially release the reallocation numbers in July.
Although she was glad to see the university acknowledging BSOS’s need, Beardsley said the college must continue to make its case.
“Unfortunately there’s somebody who’s losing money [in the reallocation process],” Beardsley said. “We have to make sure that we’re using the resources in the way we said we were going to use the resources.”
While complaints about BSOS’ underfunding were long-standing, this year saw more student activism on the issue. On April 2, hundreds of students staged a walkout on McKeldin Mall to protest the funding and resource inequalities between BSOS and other colleges. There, Lyons presented Straszheim with a petition signed by 1,500 students.
In the fall, the SGA passed a resolution calling on the provost to give a “significant and large proportion” of the reallocation funds to BSOS.
Shira Silver, a BSOS legislator and rising junior government and politics and psychology major, said, “Hopefully this will help improve our overall education.” She too added that one year of increased funding doesn’t solve the problem.
The next step is to keep reminding the administration of the student perspective, Silver said. The student leaders who planned the walkout will continue to devise plans to further engage students, she said.