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Top UND administrators leave positions while students plead for a voice

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GRAND FORKS, ND (WDAZ-TV) - Cutting millions - more budget cuts are coming to UND.

Students are calling for more transparency, as the school eliminates top-level positions.

UND President Mark Kennedy says he wants make sure the administration team is fully participating in painful cuts across the university.

Students here on campus are pleading just to have their voices heard.

The last administration, the Robert Kelley administration, ended in turmoil as students called for his job saying they had no voice in the president's office.

Mark Kennedy, UND President: "It does have something to do with the budget cuts. Them leaving, their lifestyle choices, has nothing to do with the budget cuts. But us deciding that we want to reduce the executive ranks by 20 percent."

The university will be cutting more than half a million dollars a year in the salaries of three administrators alone.

Peter Johnson and Laurie Betting are both retiring on July 1st, along with Alice Brekke, one of the highest paid executives on campus. She is phasing into retirement. Only Brekke's position will be filled.

Peter Johnson, Interim Vice President of University and Public Affairs: "My wife and I have actually been talking about this for two years, so with this opportunity the stars just kind of aligned."

The changes continue for executives in UND's research division.

Dave Schmidt has left the university, and Mark Hoffman will be switching roles.

Neither of those positions will be filled.

But some students say that these cuts are not enough.

Madison Berns, UND Senior: "Cut down some of the salaries, they need to not spend money on unnecessary things, they need to not spend 3 million dollars on recruitment and advertisement when they're gonna to see.  They’re gonna cut programs that they're advertising for."

Senior Madison Berns created a petition calling for more transparency from the administration. Hundreds of students have signed in just 24 hours.

They're concerned their voices aren't being heard, as each college must reduce its funds by 12 percent.

"We want to be involved and that if these cuts just get pushed through and we're ignored, that there's going to be consequences," says Berns.

Consequences in the form of students taking their tuition money elsewhere, calling the current president "unfit".

"If you look at the challenge that we have, it’s how do we adjust our budget to reflect the realities being discussed in Bismarck in a way that allows us to continue to move forward," says Kennedy.

The news of the administrators leaving breaks today as the school announces just how much will have to be cut from UND athletics.

Those decisions have to be made in the next two weeks.

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