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UNC’s Gillings School of Global Public Health reviews steep cuts

The Gillings School of Global Public Health, a consistently top-ranked school in the nation, is facing serious funding cuts which are affecting its faculty, research grants and course offerings.

Since 2008, the school has lost more than $4.5 million in state funding, nine faculty positions, 30 administrative staff positions and 78 teaching assistantships, said Charlotte Nunez-Wolff, the school’s associate dean for business and finance.

Barbara Rimer, dean of the school, wrote in an email that fewer teaching assistant positions might mean that faculty members spend less time on research and grant applications, which generate millions in research money.

“Over time it, could result in decreased grant funding,” she said.

“So far we have seen increases in grants but there is a cumulative effect of cuts that could have a greater impact over time.”

Rimer said some of the school’s critical programs have also been affected by the cuts.

“In some cases, students will not get courses in areas in which we have been strong in the past,” she said.

Despite the deep cuts, Rimer said faculty and staff have been working harder and with fewer resources to buffer students from feeling the impact.

“I hope that few of them feel the budget cuts with anywhere near the intensity we feel them,” she said.

But administrators do not expect that intensity to hurt its national reputation, said the school’s director of communications, Ramona DuBose.

“What we have heard at meetings for the Association of Schools of Public Health is that all schools are facing cuts right now,” DuBose said. “We all seem to be dealing with the budget issues.”

And repercussions of the most recent round of budget cuts are starting to creep into the classroom, said Noel Brewer, an associate professor in the school’s department of health behavior and health education.

Brewer has taught applied research methods at UNC for the past seven years and has lost some teaching assistant help this year, causing him to streamline the way he evaluates his 55 students.

“Exams are a little less long and we may have fewer hand-written answers,” Brewer said.

But he said these effects are minor compared to others caused by lack of funding.

“The bigger story is our staff and the people whose lives have centered around Carolina who are losing their jobs,” Brewer said. “These are the people that create the engine that propels UNC forward.”

Michael Aitken, chairman of the school’s department of environmental sciences and engineering, said students in his department have been faced with the issues that come with losing faculty members.

“One of the major effects of budget cuts for us is that we are not able to replace faculty who have retired, which means some of the classes they used to teach won’t be taught,” Aitken said.

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