SOU seeks feedback on where to cut

Oct. 31—Southern Oregon University President Rick Bailey is inviting members of the campus community to provide feedback on programs that could be cut — if not eliminated — as officials look to form a new financial plan for the school.

Bailey invited that feedback on his office's website, at, where documents for five major units and their individual programs were listed. The website includes a place to email feedback.

"This is a group of us saying, 'As we look at all the programmatic things that we do, what are the different things we should consider before we make any recommendations,'" Bailey said. "We are going into it with enough humility to know we may not have all of the answers. The idea was to put these lists of variables out to everyone to make sure we've captured everything we're considering. We're in that moment right now."

Four SOU financial town hall meetings are scheduled, with the first set from 9-11 a.m. Tuesday, Nov. 1.

The other town halls are scheduled from 9-11 a.m. Friday, Dec. 2; 10 a.m. to noon Thursday, Jan. 12; and 9-11 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 16. All meetings will take place in the Rogue River Room on campus and livestream at the link

Bailey is asking for input on a plan he announced on the eve of the 2022-23 academic year which calls for the university to make dramatic cuts, while also looking for ways to generate money. In a recent interview, Bailey said SOU was not in an "emergency situation" or in danger of shutting its doors, but he has said the school is facing serious financial challenges.

Bailey has said SOU cannot rely on state funding or tuition increases to prop up the university, and that money makers, such as a senior living community, are needed. However, those money-making ventures are not the focus of the latest campus community feedback initiative.

In requesting this feedback, Bailey is asking as many constituents as possible to examine the university's five "planks" — University Advancement, Finance and Administration, Athletics, Academic Affairs, and Enrollment Management & Student Affairs.

SOU spokesman Joe Mosley sought to clarify the significance of the information posted to the president's website.

"What you're seeing on the web page right now is basically just an outline in five different programmatic areas," said Mosley. "As the staff in those areas start to fill in some of the data, then what appears on that page is going to make more sense to the casual reader."

Bailey said the lists provided in each category have to do with all existing programs.

"What are the things we can stop doing? But it's also (about), what are the things we need to take very precious resources and invest in," Bailey said.

When asked whether it's reasonable to assume most members of the campus community know details about campus programs, Bailey said he recognizes many people "don't have a lot of bandwidth."

"However, to not put everything out there, that invites doubt that this is predetermined, and I want to do everything I can to push back on that," he said. "I want to say this: I don't think me and the vice presidents have a monopoly on understanding the bureaucratic levers of the institution. Faculty and staff are well-versed in how we explore, evaluate and identify programs."

Bailey admitted effort might be more difficult for students, but he gave them the benefit of the doubt.

"I think that there are students that don't get too involved in that kind of analysis, but students are far more adept at it than people probably think," Bailey said, noting the number of students involved in university governance as well as those who attend hearings on things such as fees.

Whether it's faculty or students, Bailey recognizes "a lot of anxiety" for anyone who chooses to undertake this program analysis.

"That's absolutely natural, and we need to be respectful of that," Bailey said. "So we owe it to everyone to make these recommendations sooner rather than later, so that everyone understands this is the direction we're headed."

But there's another more practical reason the feedback needs to be given. The university's Board of Trustees expects officials to implement all programmatic changes and realize all savings by June 2024.

"Even though we've got to achieve the savings by summer of 2024, we can't drag this process on for a year and a half, because it's unfair to the employees. They want to know where we're headed," Bailey said. "So, one of the ways to mitigate the anxiety that everyone's feeling is: Let us be thoughtful, let us be thorough but also let us be swift."

Reach reporter Kevin Opsahl at 541-776-4476 or Follow him on Twitter @KevJourno