Birmingham Southern introduces its interim head

By Jonathan Hardison

BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -The interim president of Birmingham Southern College says his school is moving forward despite the financial crisis and resignation of its leader.

Dr. Mark Schantz went to Birmingham Southern's in July of 2009 to become the school's provost.

Now, he's in charge of getting his campus ready for more than 1500 students who will be back in just weeks, hard times or not.

Birmingham Southern's former president, Dr. David Pollick, resigned Wednesday in the wake of accounting errors and budget problems that put the school in a $13 million deficit, and forced the college to lay off 51 workers, 29 faculty members by next year, and cut 5 majors.

Without moving his office, Dr. Schantz, has been handed the job of moving the school forward during its financial crisis.

"We are so lucky to have an incredibly dedicated faculty and staff," Dr. Schantz said in an interview Friday. "Even though this has been a challenging summer for us, the work that these faculty and staff have done has just been heroic this summer, and I'm so honored to serve them and lead them at this time."

Schantz says a handful of students have decided not to return or enroll because their majors won't be offered.
When asked if the school can be as aggressive in recruiting new students going forward as it has in the past, Schantz was noncommittal.
"We'll continue to move forward and what the shape of that looks like, enrollment-wise, is yet to be determined and we continue to offer the kind of liberal arts education we think will have broad appeal."

The school says its budget deficit has been sharply reduced through the cuts and new donations, but the budget going forward will be tight and could limit what choices Schantz can make. But he doesn't see it that way.     

"Well I don't see it as a handcuff. I think we all live with limitations of various kinds and the trick is to be creative and resourceful and hopeful in the midst of that, and I think we have the campus to do that."

Schantz says it's too early to comment on whether he would be interested in the president's job permanently.

He's just focused on the start of classes, which comes September 1.

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