Hiring more faculty on a reduced budget


Travis Hairgrove, Editor

Since assuming the role of Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, Dr. John Humphreys has been busy working on developing ways to increase the number of faculty to better meet the needs of a rapidly growing student body, and doing it in the wake of Gov. Abbott and Lt. Gov. Patrick’s policy letter requesting that state universi-ties reduce the amount their budget requests by four percent compared to the previous year.

“This has been a continuing trend in higher education. State funding has become less and less,” Humphreys said. “We [at A&M-Commerce] are also in an environment where it’s very difficult to raise tuition and things like that, so that’s not really a good source for an increase, which means we have to turn our attention more towards benevolence [donations from alumni and other benefactors]. At many universities now, friends and alumni are really working hard to raise money, and we’ve started in much greater earnest. When I was the dean of the College of Business, we established three endowments for faculty, trying to assist in that sort of thing, but we’ve got to do better in advancement.

“As far as what I’m doing right now, some of that we can accomplish by doing a little restructuring to free up some dollars for a few [more] faculty lines,” Humphreys continued. “It means that, right at the moment, I’m looking at the budgets of all the different parts in academic affairs, to see if there are areas where maybe we’re overstaffed, but I don’t know that I there’s a tremendous amount there. I don’t think we have anywhere that’s just overflowing with folks that aren’t doing anything, so it’s a difficult task.

“And, if the four percent reduction is what I think it will very likely be, it’s not something that’s going to hit faculty lines. It’s something that’s going to hit the appropriation of operating funds,” Humphreys emphasized. “We don’t like it, but I think it’s something that’s going to be manageable. Of course, we’ll be lobbying, trying to make it not happen.”

The strengthening of faculty positions in the face of state-mandated budget cuts is indeed a tough task. For this reason, Dr. Humphreys is grateful to be working with a university president as committed as Dr. Ray M. Keck III.

“I mean this from a personal standpoint. With Dr. Jones’ passing, I, like many, was concerned not only for his family, but for the institution a well, because we have so many incredible things happening at this university, that I did not want to see us lose momentum,” Humphreys said. “Very often, when you get somebody that comes in as an interim president, you fear that they see the role as only a placeholder. But, when I first met Dr. Keck, I expressed to him that that was my concern, but I think the chancellor [John Sharp] did us a great service by asking Dr. Keck to come here.

“Dr. Keck has jumped in with both feet, and hit the ground running,” Humphreys said. “And, not only do I think that we’ve kept momentum, but I think we’re gaining. We’re going in the right direction. There are so many positive stories that we need to tell of what is happening here, at the university. I think we’re actually on good footing. I think the ship is pointed in the right direction. Yes. We need more resources. That’s the big take away, but I think that we’re accomplishing incredible things with the resources we do have.”

Many of the positive stories that Dr. Humphreys is eager to tell involve creating new degree plans that have the potential to supplement other programs.

“We now have a Master of Science in Nursing that would allow the College of Business to have access to four of those courses, so that they could have a healthcare management option in the BA department,” Humphreys said. “Those are the kinds of synergies that you hope to achieve with degree programs.”