Ayers paints realistic budget
picture for board
By Carol Wood
October, the College
of Arts & Sciences was one of the first of the Universitys
schools out of the starting block with budget cuts.
was in an effort to get out ahead of the cuts that many suspected
would soon be coming out of Richmond, said Edward L. Ayers, dean
of the College, at a Sept. 3 meeting of the Educational Policy
Committee of the Board
of Visitors. In December, he froze 25 faculty positions along
with almost all travel, in addition to reining in department operating
budgets by 15 percent.
school, which receives $70 million in state funding, had been
asked to cut up to $991,949 of its budget for 2001-2002 and $3.2
million for the current fiscal year. Since 60 percent of the Colleges
budget comes from the state, it gets hit hard.
was careful to paint a realistic picture of the budget situation,
warning board members that the long-term damage to the College
could be immense especially if the contingency plans for
an additional 7 percent cut this year must be implemented.
timing and size of the cuts (for this year and next) make it very
hard to plan, he said, especially when trying to avoid permanent
damage. He believes that it is crucial to restart the hiring process
as quickly as possible and dangerous to build dependence on temporary
the devastating cuts, Ayers said he and his colleagues are determined
to continue to meet the curricular demands of College students.
Our primary goal is that students will not feel the brunt
of these cuts.
The welfare of undergraduate students has
to be our priority.
areas to protect, he said, are staff and faculty by avoiding
any layoffs and the quality of teaching. Thats
our trademark for the undergraduate experience and we dont
intend to put it in jeopardy.
credits his staff with adroit management of the budget, as well
as a keen understanding that the College cannot afford to become
stagnant during the states financial crisis. So, in the
face of losing some senior faculty to poaching institutions, Ayers
fought and won to keep most of them in Charlottesville.
emphasized that the quality of the staff and faculty is vital,
and cautioned that it is crucial to continue to retain and to
recruit top faculty. The University should not sacrifice
in this area.
many thought there would be no new initiatives, the College created
this years already popular course on practical ethics, as
well two new interdisciplinary majors, one in human biology, the
other in neuroscience. Other projects to enhance the academic
life of College students that were given the green light include:
a pilot program with the School
of Engineering to create an honors computer science major;
an alliance with the McIntire
School to provide more of its courses for non-business majors;
creation of an office dedicated to undergraduate fellowships and
the South Lawn Project.
when faculty worried about class sizes increasing, Ayers said
he and his staff have worked hard to maintain the 15-to-1 student-to-faculty
ratios in the College. A recent report by the Office
of Institutional Assessment and Study showed that only 7 percent
of classes at the University have more than 100 students, he said,
adding, That is one of the great strengths of this place.
board members asked if the College had reviewed its programs to
see if there might be things they could cut permanently. When
Terence P. Ross suggested operating more like a business would
in tough times by eliminating weaker units, Ayers
rejected the idea of jettisoning less popular departments for
the sake of those in more demand. But, he acknowledged, some departments
received no additional funds this year, while others doing
the best job with the highest student demand received
the lions share.
explained the cyclical nature of student demand, pointing to the
after effects of last Sept. 11 and the increased interest in foreign
affairs, languages and religion. We have to be willing,
occasionally, to tolerate what looks like a little inefficiency,
he said. And to trust our students and our faculty to offer
classes on the cutting edge.
was quick to respond on questions of efficiency, noting that the
University as a whole consistently is considered one of the most
efficient operations in higher education. In the College
we have looked hard to find redundancies and to eliminate them.
There is no fat in the College.