Fairmont State University clarifies the rumors in terms of performing arts program

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FAIRMONT, W.Va. – Fairmont State University’s number one priority is to keep an open line of communication. As announced on May 22, the university’s board of governors voted to discontinue Music and Theater Degree Programs at the end of the next academic year.

The clarity behind these decisions that have surfaced and there has been a lot of inaccurate information being shared on social media channels. To help clear questions up, they shared with the 12 News Team all the answers to any questions that have surfaced.

Below is the Performing Arts: Facts & Figure and the Myths vs. Facts, for more information, refer to Fairmont State University website.

PERFORMING ARTS: FACTS & FIGURES

BOARD OF GOVERNORS & THE MAY 21 DECISION:

Q: Who are the members of Fairmont State Board of Governors? A: Appointed by the Governor, the Board of Governors is comprised of Marion County residents, alumni, and donors to Fairmont State. Our board members share deeply in the tradition and heritage of our beloved University, and understand that they are placed on the Board to ensure academic and financial stability for not only our University but, in part, the greater Marion County.

Q: Who made the decision to discontinue these academic programs? A: The Fairmont State Board of Governors (BOG) made the decision to discontinue theatre, theatre education, music, and music education majors. Neither academic program met governing standards and both programs were accompanied by large budget shortfalls. 

Q: What academic programs were affected by the Board of Governors’ May 21, 2020 vote? A: Music, Music Education, Theatre, Theatre Education.

Q: Who typically attends the Board of Governors’ meetings, and who was present at the May 21 board meeting? A: Board meetings are open to the public. Due to COVID-19, this meeting was held virtually. Most meetings include the members of the Board of Governors, the University President, the Executive Leadership Team, and members of the campus community  including faculty, staff and students. Community members are also typically in attendance. 

ACADEMIC PROGRAM REVIEWS:

Q: Who is responsible for developing, establishing and overseeing the implementation of a public policy agenda for the state’s four-year colleges and universities, including academic program standards? A: Fairmont State University along with all public institutions in the state, report to the West Virginia Higher Education Policy Commission (HEPC). The West Virginia HEPC works with institutions on accomplishing their missions and carrying out state procedures. Part of this work includes providing criteria for reviewing academic programs. 

Q: Why are academic programs discontinued due to budget shortfalls? A: Across the country and amongst our peers, higher education institutions that failed to make hard decisions in order to remain solvent are closing their doors. Universities need to balance passion and respect for the all programs with their fiduciary responsibility to their students, alumni and community members to keep institutions open and solvent. 

Q: What information did Fairmont State’s Board of Governors have that led to its decision regarding the future of the music and theatre academic programs? A: Every academic program at Fairmont State is subject to a five-year program review. Departmental faculty and deans are involved in creating the documents provided to the Board for review. Documents contain information on graduation rates, assessment, enrollment, retention, and achievements, provided by the Office of Institutional Research. Annually, the Academic Affairs committee of the Board assess these programs via the program review documents and bring findings and recommendations to the full Board for a vote. If a program is under performing (HEPC definition) according to specific criteria, that program is placed on a one-year focused review.  

Q: Were the Faculty and Staff aware that the programs were underperforming? A: Administration worked alongside the faculty, at the direction of the Provost, to ensure they understood the severity of the situation and stress the need for immediate changes within both degree programs to guarantee their viability. 

FINANCIAL FACTS & FIGURES:

Q: What was the annual institutional financial commitment to the Music and Theatre Academic Programs? A: In FY20, the University committed $917,042. This includes academic programs in Theater, Theater Education, Music, Music Education, Masquers (the student organization), and the Education and General portion of the Performing Arts budget.

Q: How do the costs of the programs break out? A: $571,108 for full-time faculty pay. $234,249 for adjunct pay, teaching assistants and student labor. $111,685 for operating budget.

Q: Do Fairmont State students pay a fine arts activity fee or a fee that is used to fund the plays, the band, and the choir? A: Fairmont State Students pay a student activity fee to the university as part of their tuition and fees. This fee supports student activities provided through the division of Student Affairs, student organizations, student government, club sports, and Greek life. Performing arts was given $47,000 to support the Masquers student organization. 

Q: Was the Board given a breakdown of the tuition and fees paid by non-majors who take appreciation classes or who participate in plays, the band, or the choir. A: No, because those revenues and expenses are expected to continue as the general studies curriculum will continue at Fairmont State.

Q: How much of the budget represents special public music performances such as the Chamber Concert series and West Virginia Symphony? A: Support for these public performances was not included in the annual commitment. The costs are largely covered by the University. Those revenues and expenses are separate and not a part of the academic program budget. 

Q: What happens to the ticket money from the theatre productions? What happens to the ticket money from the WV Symphony? A: All money earned from ticket sales supports future performance costs. The ticket sales for the West Virginia symphony supports the cost of those performances. Ticket sales were not sufficient to cover the cost of the Symphony’s concert.  The cost was supplemented primarily by the Fairmont State and by some grant dollars.

FAIRMONT STATE FOUNDATION, DONATIONS & ENDOWMENTS:

Q: What is the role of the Fairmont State Foundation? A: The mission of the Fairmont State Foundation, Inc., is to support, through ethical stewardship, the mission of Fairmont State University. The Foundation identifies, establishes and cultivates meaningful relationships with Fairmont State alumni, as well as potential and existing funding constituencies to meet contributor needs while securing funds and supporters for priority objectives identified by the Board of Governors.

Q: How does the Fairmont State Foundation communicate with alumni and donors? A: The Foundation communicates regularly with alumni and donors of Fairmont State University using direct mail and email.  Communications consist of solicitations, newsletters, event and general information updates.  If you are not receiving communications from the Foundation, please update your contact information by visiting this website

Q: How does the Fairmont State Foundation account for and distribute funds given by donors? A: The Fairmont State Foundation places funds into separate and distinct accounts, each with its own set of donor restrictions. Funds are only spent based on restrictions agreed upon by the donor. The Foundation is audited annually by an independent outside firm.

Q: What plan does the Fairmont State Foundation have for Endowments and other scholarship funds set aside for performing arts students? A: The Fairmont State Foundation has already begun reaching out to donors to ask them where they would like those funds to be redirected, as it will be up to the donors to decide where they would like their support to be utilized moving forward. As a reminder, there will be no change to those funds in the next academic year because of the one-year teach out. This is to mean, all scholarships that have been awarded per donors’ instructions will be honored.

THE FUTURE OF MUSIC, THEATER & THE COMMUNITY:

Q: Will the general studies curriculum for music and theater continue? A: Yes. Fairmont State will continue to offer general studies curriculum in music and theater. 

Q: What does community theatre and community music mean? A: The Provost, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts, and Chairperson of Performing Arts are meeting to operationalize a plan for community theatre and community music based on the vote of the Board. They will work with the Academy of the Arts and Fairmont State faculty to determine the programming and events that will continue and the new offerings which are anticipated. We are excited to announce it later this year.

Q: Will the University provide funding for the community arts? A: The University will continue to fund faculty and staff positions as-well-as provide an operating budget to the Academy and for performing arts student organizations. Additional financial support will be raised through community partnerships, grants, and production revenues.

Q: Will the marching band continue? A: Yes, the marching band will continue to be an important part of Fairmont State’s future. 

PERFORMING ARTS: MYTHS vs. FACTS:

MYTH: Fairmont State does not value its rich history and tradition of music and theater. FACT: Retaining the richness and history of our music and theater is a priority to the Board of Governors. 

MYTH: Students will no longer experience a liberal arts education without music/theater majors. FACT: Music and Theater appreciation will continue to be a core part of the general studies requirement enabling all students to be impacted by these subjects and to learn, experience and embrace the many opportunities in theater and music that will continue to be available to them on campus. 

MYTH: Led by the Academy of the Arts, community theater and music cannot be successful without these majors on campus. FACT: In order to retain as much of our music and theater culture and tradition as possible, we must look at the opportunities before us. In order to do that we have begun engaging in new partnerships and reimagining ways of getting more students and community members involved in these processes. By combining community-based performing arts on campus with resources and on-going projects already available at the Academy for the Arts, Fairmont State can strategically develop a cohesive, centralized physical and organizational artistic hub that will enable more efficient coordination of resources, creative spaces, and heightened multi-disciplinary artistic performances and outreach.

MYTH: Marching band will no longer exist. FACT: Fairmont State remains committed to a growing and thriving marching band that incorporates students from all sectors of campus into its ranks. 

MYTH: Current students will not be able to graduate. FACT: The University is currently planning on the pathway to graduate theater and music majors who have earned 60 or more credit hours. 

MYTH: The faculty were not aware or involved in providing documents that were sent to the Board of Governors. FACT: Every academic program at Fairmont State is subject to a five or seven year program review. Departmental faculty and department coordinators are involved in creating the documents for the board of governors’ review.

MYTH: Funding will not continue for music or theater productions? FACT: The University will continue to fund faculty and staff positions as-well-as provide an operating budget to the Academy and for performing arts student organizations. Additional financial support will be raised through community partnerships, grants, and production revenues. 

MYTH: Theater and Music were meeting HEPC guidelines for viable academic programs based on graduation rates. FACT: Annual productivity standards for degrees awarded and enrollments in majors are provided below. Institutional attainment for degree awards and enrollment in majors will be based on the average of degree awards or major enrollment for the five most recent years. 

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