Big changes at TMU
March 18, 2019
Thirty years is a long time. Few students at TMU have even lived that many years. But that’s how long Dr. Brian Morley, professor of philosophy and apologetics, has worked at the university.
“30 wonderful years,” Morley said. “Working with students and my colleagues has been the greatest blessing and privilege of my life, second only to being married to my wife, Donna.”
Morley is among 14 professors recently let go as the university makes financial changes.
On March 1, 14 professors were informed of the decision privately by the dean and provost. To be in compliance with the employee handbook, the administration had to renew their contracts or let them go.
“Though I was surprised at being cut, I haven’t been the least bit worried. In fact, Donna and I have taken it as God’s grace,” Morley said. “The need and prayer request is for wisdom as far as direction. The main challenge in life is that there are just too many great things to do and not enough time.”
Todd Kostjuk, chief financial officer and vice president of administration, explained that many higher education institutions have experienced a decline in traditional enrollment due to an increase in alternative options, such as online programs.
“What we’re doing is looking to increase student enrollment,” he said. “So, it’s unfortunate we had to make these decisions, but we’re making these decisions with a long-term view at the health of the organization going forward.”
According to Kostjuk, TMU had to compare the larger amount of resources provided traditional students and compare it to the declining number of traditional enrollments.
“I want the students to know these are very difficult decisions,” Kostjuk said. “We love these people, and we’re going to trust God’s providence to take care of them. But we’re called as an administration to be good stewards with the financial resources we had. And we feel like for us, this is a stewardship principle, an issue that we had to deal with in terms of financial management.”
Kostjuk said he is among the professors changing roles. He is currently working three different jobs within the university—professor, chief financial officer, and vice president of administration.
“I’m going to teach as an adjunct and they’ll fill in other adjunct people, that’s a lower cost. I took the CFO role and it is a paid position and I basically took the VP of admin role. I said I’d do it for free just to help the school because I’m passionate about it,” Kostjuk said. “I mean, we’re asking everybody to carry a little extra to help this institution financially going forward. So if we’re going to ask other people to carry extra, then we would lead by example and do it ourselves.”
Some professors, such as Dr. Morley, are not simply being let go but being repositioned.
“I’ll keep teaching online philosophy, theology, and other classes, and chairing the online degree in Biblical Studies,” Morley said.
“Also, one of the greatest opportunities I’ve had comes from the school’s decision to develop several special emphases within our online master’s in Biblical Studies, directed by Dr. [William] Varner–Biblical languages, missions, music and worship, women’s ministries, and theology. I’m developing the theology emphasis.”
According to Kostjuk, the Human Resources director will be available to help professors find new positions.
“I think that the school is working as hard as they can to make sure their students are taken care of and that they’re making wise decisions,” said Gracie Brackett, a sophomore. “Even if that does result in layoffs, I think that they’re doing what they believe is best.”
The administration will use the monetary savings to invest in new initiatives meant to attract more students, Kostjuk said, and would like to have 1,200 full-time students in the next five years.
“So we need to invest capital to do that,” Kostjuk said. “You will have to hire a chair of the new major and the faculty, and there are startup costs involved. It’s got to take some capital. And so we’re reframing (the budget) for that.”
Four major changes are planned, starting with new majors and athletic programs, he said.
According to Kostjuk, the administration would also like to have a coffee shop for students in the trophy room, which is under-utilized. “The coffee shop’s goal is that it will pay for itself,” he said. “We want to make hip and nice and a place where a lot of students… come and hang out and have good coffee.”
The administration also intends to remodel space near the gazebo by the Vider Administration building, Kostjuk said.
“We’re really looking at repurposing that space to make it more of a hangout space. Maybe do some new hardscape (hard landscape– pavements) in there but make it a place where students would come and hang out and enjoy the space. So we really want to do things where it builds community within the school,” Kostjuk said.
Amid the faculty and other changes around campus, Dr. Morley offers wise advice that applies to his situation and can also extend to students.
“I’ve found that life doesn’t turn out the way you expect,” he said. “But despite unwelcome surprises and challenges, it turns out better. Better- not for comfort and security but for the deeper values of personal growth and knowing God. Those unexpected events are, however, only opportunities. Whether they help us or hurt us depends on our response. And the right response sets us up for the next adventure.”