Dec. 14, 2001-Jan. 10, 2002
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Casteen assesses state budget

By Matt Kelly

University President John T. Casteen III urged the faculty not to panic in the face of a gloomy state budget forecast.

“It’s not real until it’s real,” Casteen said of potential budget cuts.

Casteen offered the Faculty Senate gloomy numbers on the state budget Dec. 6, saying the gap between revenues and expenditures was about $1.3 billion.

Analysts were projecting two to three more quarters of recession, Casteen reported, but the bleak numbers can be hard to nail down since they occur at the start of a two-year budget cycle.

The governor has called for 2 percent reductions in the current budget, with no exemptions at this point for education. The state has a $726 million rainy day fund, some of which will be used to cover the budget shortfall and the governor has suspended the rest of the car tax repeal.

While the College and Graduate School of Arts & Sciences gets about 65 percent of its money from the state, the state’s contribution to U.Va.’s overall academic divisions budget is 20.6 percent of total revenues. About 75 percent of the state portion covers labor-related costs.

The governor is not likely to propose retroactive pay increases this year. There has been discussion of a bond issue for capital projects, as well as talk of three staggered bond issues, which Casteen said could be a good plan.

Also in his remarks, Casteen said the University was working on establishing new international programs, including summer sessions, in a variety of venues, some of which would transfer grades back to U.Va. The lack of grade transfer has been a drawback in promoting overseas programs, especially for pre-med students, he noted. He also outlined the University’s relation with U21, an international consortium that will offer a variety of degrees via the Internet.

In other Senate business, sociology professor Paul Kingston presented a report from the Research and Scholarship Committee, which is sifting through applications for Harrison Research Awards. There had been 90 applications, from 35 departments, with 47 female applicants. They hope to award 40 grants, he said.

Committee members have been seeking other funding sources for the undergraduate research awards, and had consulted with Robert Sweeney, senior vice president for development and public affairs, Kingston said.

There had been faculty concern that the Harrison money would be ending after this round. Casteen said that David A. Harrison III, who partially funds the awards, established the program with a review after three years, not a funds cutoff. The money, which is provided through a trust arrangement for the duration of Harrison’s life, should continue, according to Casteen.

Faculty Senate Chair Robert Grainger, who noted that donors are often interested in specific research, suggested funding a University-wide office of undergraduate research. The office, he said later, would help connect undergraduate students with research money. Such an office could attract funds to the University and expand undergraduate research, he said.

Faculty senators also focused on the role of graduate students, as Robert Davis, associate professor of Environmental Science, delivered a report from the Academic Affairs Committee advocating the creation of social space for graduate students as part of the South Lawn Project.

The senators also discussed graduate funding issues, including a dissertation year fellowship program to provide money for 11 graduate students. Faculty members said the University must be competitive in attracting graduate students, but there is a question of how to classify them while they are teaching, since there are different pay and benefit combinations, depending on title.

Casteen suggested a system in place in the 1950s, with such titles as junior instructor, senior instructor and lecturer. Some of the graduate students — including foreign students — are paying out-of-state rates to attend, while playing an integral part in research, mentoring and teaching at the University. In some departments, the out-of-state fees are waived, but one senator said that compared to its peers, the University’s graduate program was underfunded.

Casteen responded that the state was concerned that graduate students would get an education here as residents but then not stay in Virginia. He noted that it is hard to keep them here since Ph.D.s are sought on a national market.


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