Nov. 19, 2009

Senate explores FY11 budget realities

by Erin Rosacker

The Faculty Senate spent the majority of its Nov. 17 meeting looking ahead to anticipated budget challenges in fiscal year 2011 and beyond. Executive vice president and provost Elizabeth Hoffman led a panel of six speakers.

Representing the Deans' Council, library dean Olivia Madison said the unique organization of each of the colleges means different approaches will be necessary to address future budget challenges with the university's core missions in mind. In the short term, she said FY11 planning has started at many levels in the colleges, but "it is difficult to have serious discussions until we have a better picture overall," including the state Board of Regents' tuition decision expected next month.

Jonathan Wendel, chair of the ecology, evolution and organismal biology department, was one of three department chairs to share their thoughts and experiences. They reported FY10 cuts in faculty, staff, graduate assistants, supplies and services. With more cuts anticipated, the chairs hinted that their ability to fully serve students could be impacted.

"I think most of the chairs are feeling very much like small boats in very stormy seas. We don't feel like we have a lot of control," Wendel said.

Gregory Palermo, chair of the senate's resource policies and allocations council, said collaborative strategic thinking needs to be put in place, especially at the college level. The council's list of suggestions to reduce expenditures included reviewing:

  • centers and institutes
  • academic programs and degrees
  • services, including subsidies
  • departmental organization
  • mandatory salary increases
  • student financial aid allocations, indebtedness
  • faculty productivity, effectiveness

"Due to the scale and timing of [the last two mid-year] reversions, expense cutting has been opportunistic, rather than strategic," Palermo said. "We do not have the capacity to address the students that we have here in a way that maintains a level of richness that we would like to see in a great university."

Hoffman said maintaining enrollment and increasing research are major factors in meeting the fiscal challenges of the future. She said those challenges could be an opportunity to "reshape" the university.

"We have to rethink ourselves and we cannot shy away from the possibility that that means we're going to eliminate some departments, some programs," Hoffman said. "We're going to merge some things, we're going to do some things differently. I think if we can take this as a challenge, as an opportunity to rethink ourselves, we can emerge a much stronger institution, with a much better research profile and much better able to respond to what the students of the middle of the 21st century are working toward."

Other business

Senators approved:

In addition, senators will vote in December on academic decisions to:

  • Change the names of two undergraduate majors: apparel, merchandising, design and production (to apparel, merchandising and design); and hotel, restaurant and institution management (to hospitality management)
  • Change the names of two graduate majors: textiles and clothing (to apparel, merchandising and design); and foodservice and lodging management (to hospitality management)
  • Merge two undergraduate majors (logistics and supply chain management; and operations and supply chain management) to form one supply chain management major