Nov. 16-29, 2001
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IN THIS ISSUE
Senate highlights work of Harrison undergraduate researchers
Deans slow new spending
Photos show aftermath of Rwandan genocide
Q&A: Ayers builds future on founder's model

Martin: Immigration laws need to be realistic

Medical Center reaches settlement
Notable -- awards and achievements of faculty and staff
Play explores the foibles of greed
Campaign pleas for local charity support
Hot Links -- With Good Reason
Sheer images
Poet and editor R.T. Smith to read at U.Va. Nov. 29

Deans slow new spending
Many states’ budget problems are result of economic downturn

By Anne Bromley

Reading the handwriting on the wall, several deans have moved to slow this year’s spending in anticipation of possible mid-year state budget cuts.

Edward L. Ayers, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences, sent a memo to department chairs on Nov. 8 suspending faculty recruitment and hiring. “We must not make any new, long-term financial commitments,” he said, “until the uncertainty about the budget can be resolved.”

David Breneman, dean of the Curry School and a national expert on the funding of higher education, declared a moratorium on faculty hiring Nov. 1. “I told the faculty, until we get some clarity on the situation, it’s the responsible thing to do.”

Karen Van Lengen, dean of the Architecture School, also has asked department chairs to suspend faculty searches until she reviews all expenses to understand where cuts could be made, if necessary, with the least impact on the school.

Although neither the state nor the University has mandated belt tightening, the deans say they are reacting to a weakened economy and the financial aftermath of the events of Sept. 11.

Virginia is not the only state with budget problems. Public colleges throughout the nation are facing reductions in state support and mid-year budget cuts. A study released last week by the National Conference of State Legislatures and reported on in the Nov. 2. issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education, called this year “the toughest budget year in a decade” and predicted a “bleak outlook for higher education.”

In October, the governors of nine states — including Connecticut, Georgia, Idaho, and Nebraska — advised their public colleges and universities to prepare for state appropriation rollbacks ranging from 1 percent to 7 percent.

Forty-four states are seeing revenues drop below projections, according to the survey, and at least 28 states reported having cut this year’s budgets. Some are experiencing both higher spending and lower revenues than planned, including Virginia, North Carolina and Maryland.

“We have not taken any University-wide action,” said Leonard W. Sandridge, U.Va. executive vice president and chief operating officer. “However, the current revenue outlook at the state level causes us to believe that we should use careful judgment in the commitment of discretionary funds.”

Breneman has been keeping a close eye on the news coverage, some of which began in early January. “I heard my colleagues around the country talking about wrestling with the same [budget] issues,” he said. “By last month I could see it was inevitable and tried to prepare the faculty with articles from the Chronicle of Higher Education and the Washington Post.”

In addition to a hiring freeze in the College, Ayers is asking department chairs to reduce their present budgets by 5 percent. Authorization for replacing faculty in 2002-03 also has been suspended, as has travel for recruitment purposes. Other academic travel has not been affected at this point.

Requests for exemptions to the freeze — due today — will be considered if the position is entirely or mostly privately funded, or if it is essential to meet instructional needs and can be filled while at the same time cutting the department’s state-funded salary budget. Request to fill classified staff positions also must be submitted to the dean’s office.

Sixty-five percent of the total budget for Arts & Sciences comes from the state. The largest portion of the College’s state funding — 85 percent — is compensation for faculty and classified employees, while another 10 percent funds graduate teaching assistants and student workers.

William Sherman, the Architecture School’s associate dean for academics, said the chairs have been told to plan as if there has been a 15 percent reduction to their operating budgets. “We’re going to study the budget to determine how best to protect everything that’s essential to running the school,” Sherman said.

Ayers and Breneman believe that they have the support of their staff and faculty on these cost-saving initiatives, as well that of University administrators.

President John T. Casteen III laid the groundwork for such actions when he alerted the Faculty Senate at its October meeting that he had already advised his Cabinet to develop contingency plans in case the state mandates cuts.

Echoing Casteen’s message, Gene D. Block, vice president and provost, told the deans it would be prudent to look at their budgets now to see where they could hold back or reduce expenditures.

“We’re not imposing mandatory cuts. Deans are empowered to make their own decisions on their budgets,” Block said, especially considering that some rely on state funding more than others. “Because it isn’t clear when the state might notify agencies, it would be easier to absorb cuts now. This would help preserve some flexibility and avoid later, more drastic reductions.”

The provost and deans stressed that the steps they are taking are intended to accomplish two primary goals: protect current staff and faculty, while minimizing the instructional impact on students in the classroom.


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