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University of Montana political science major Michael Nelson is one of many students who gathered around the Oval on Friday to protest about the school’s budget cuts. The budget cuts are planned to be implemented in the areas of liberal arts, humanities, foreign languages and social sciences.

Bronte Wittpenn, for the Independent Record

MISSOULA -- Jessie Seiler is afraid the bone class she wants to take to prepare her to work in a forensic anthropology lab will be cut from her program.

The class fulfills a mandatory requirement, and Seiler also fears the anthropology professor hired to teach it will be laid off in the current budget crisis at the University of Montana.

"He's probably going to be let go because he was just hired," said Seiler, an out-of-state junior who said she pays big bucks to attend UM.

On Friday, an estimated 200 students, faculty and community members marched a petition protesting academic and staff cuts to Main Hall.

"If the UM administration does not address the serious crisis confronting the university by first applying significant cuts to its own budget, we will call on the UM Faculty Senate to begin the process of discussing the possibility of a vote of no confidence in the present leadership," read the final paragraph of the petition.

Brad Lambert, an English major, said the petition had collected more than 1,150 signatures by the time he delivered it to the president's office.

Last month, President Royce Engstrom announced UM would need to cut the equivalent of 201 full-time positions to address a budget shortfall, one worth an estimated $10 million to $12 million.

Since then, faculty members have pressed the administration to be more transparent about its fiscal analysis, which ostensibly supports the proposal for cuts, and some are calling on the president to demonstrate a clear vision for UM that protects its core liberal arts and sciences mission.

On Friday, students demonstrated in support of their faculty members and programs, ones they fear will be compromised with the proposed cuts. In his budget forum, the president named journalism, anthropology, English, geography, liberal studies, art, political science, forestry management and several Missoula College programs "targeted for staffing adjustments."

Mary Jones, a junior in English with minors in economics and German, said she sees signs on campus of a failing administration, and she has a wide perspective because of the breadth of courses she takes for her major and minor degrees.

"Professors are afraid to lose their jobs. There are people with Ph.D.s, double Ph.D.s, who are afraid to lose their jobs," Jones said.

UM is top in the nation for forestry, and it has a long tradition of strong writing programs, and she believes the cuts should be evenly distributed, not targeted at some of the crown jewels on campus.

"People aren't going to come to the University of Montana where Richard Hugo used to teach to get a degree in computer science. We're known for the liberal arts," Jones said.

Julie Ammons, a senior studying Russian, said she does not see any extra faculty members in some programs. She launched a separate petition and aims to protect Russian, German and liberal arts.

"We just don't see how our programs will go on if they fire even just one professor," Ammons said.

She is scheduled to graduate in December 2016, but she said she and other students are concerned they will need to transfer out of UM to complete their degrees. The crisis has trickled into classrooms, too.

"There is definitely a sense of unease and worry," she said.

At the event, demonstrators chanted and carried signs supporting the cause.

"Fat Cat? What $$ amount is administration willing to give up?"


"We stand with professors."

Some held a rope with maroon flags to illustrate the number of people who might be out of work.

Maizie Smith, a sophomore in environmental studies, said the equivalent of 200 full-time positions could translate into 300 actual people, depending on how the administration cuts. The flags were meant to give people a reference point.

"We want people to understand the scale and the magnitude of people that are going to be gone," Smith said.

Grace Krakow, a sophomore who is majoring in art, said many students were present to advocate for language programs, which are being cut. 

"I think there should be more critical thinking about how to fix the budget and distribute the budget ... besides demolishing programs," Krakow said.

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Reporter for the Missoulian