First reported 3/10/2010 2:17 p.m.

Faced with what administrators described as a financial crisis at Triton College, the school is cutting several departments from its curriculum, consolidating others, and putting more on an indefinite suspension. All this is in an effort to cut costs and keep doors open.

Details of the changes were unveiled Tuesday afternoon, March 9, by the college’s president, Patricia Granados, and vice president of academic affairs, Angela Latham, during a 90-minute meeting with dozens of faculty members. The need for serious budget cuts was not challenged, even by those directly affected. But many in attendance said they felt slighted and disrespected by the administration’s handling of the process. Triton’s brass closed its ranks, according to several faculty members, and excluded employees from discussions about how best to save money.

Several of the college’s professors said during the meeting that they had been told only a few days before that their department would be shuttered.

“I think you owe us a little bit,” said one faculty member during the meeting. “We’ve served this community for decades. This is our fourth decade and we’re going to be kicked to the curb.”

The college’s first classes were held in 1965, and in 1968 operations were moved to River Grove.

Triton began the current fiscal year with a budget shortfall of more than $6.2 million, and is left reeling by news from the state that another $4 million in funding isn’t going to come through. The River Grove campus, in a worst-case scenario, could be forced to close at the end of the 2011 school year.

In an interview with Wednesday Journal after the cuts were announced, Latham said it would be pure speculation as to whether additional cuts may be necessary.

“We recognize we have to be as disciplined as we can be,” Latham said.

According to Latham, the cuts outlined to faculty members are not up for debate. At least a half-dozen programs are being cut altogether. Classes in interior design, marketing, engineering, leadership for paramedics, air conditioning and refrigeration repair, and respiratory care will be cut from Triton’s academic offerings. An estimated $492,948 would be saved annually, she said during last week’s meeting.

“This is a painful process for all us,” Latham told the group.

The college’s international hospitality program will be wrapped into related disciplines; journalism courses will be folded into instruction on mass communication, and brand-specific automotive repair will also be consolidated, according to Latham’s presentation.

Two other departments, the undergraduate center and the foreign language department, will be “discontinued,” said Latham. Employees will be transferred to other areas.

Classes in construction management and medical assisting will be suspended indefinitely.

Students currently enrolled in any of the affected programs will be allowed to complete their education. New students, however, will not be admitted.

With each cut outlined by Latham, she attached a dollar amount in projected savings. Those figures ranged from $128,000 to more than $818,000, depending on the department. However, faculty members challenged the numbers and asked for the opportunity to compare these figures with those presented by administrators. Latham and Granados said the opportunity for discussion had passed.

Sean Sullivan, Triton’s chief financial officer, recently estimated the school needs to make up at least $8.4 million in the coming fiscal year.

CONTACT: jadams@wjinc.com

Anticipated at Triton

Change – Annual savings

Eliminate course offerings $492,900

Suspend course offerings $128,000

Consolidate courses $147,700

Discontinue foreign language dept., undergraduate center, telecourses $818,000

Four-day work week $36,000

Weekend closures $40,000

Reduced office hours $45,500

Reduced service hours $115,500

Marketing cuts $217,000

Legal fees $35,000

Overtime $25,000

Consultants $144,000

Personnel $1.13 million

Not necessarily a complete list.