Oct. 25-Nov. 7, 2002
Back Issues
State budget in crisis
Garry Wills takes his turn at writing U.Va. history
Headlines @ U.Va.
Lampkin named new VP

Wanted: Minority grad students

Faculty Actions -- from the October BOV meeting
New director has familiar face
The struggle to create the University -- excerpt from Mr. Jefferson’s University
Grounds Keeper
Nursing enrollment, ranking on the rise
Opportunity key to library’s outlook
‘With Good Reason’ turns 10
Talk maps out path of early explorations
Dove’s play debuts in C’ville
America’s global stature Levinson Lecture focus
Tears for the Earth
Bond package to spur research
President John T. Casteen III
Photo by Andrew Shurtleff
Protecting jobs at the University is a No. 1 priority, President Casteen said.

State budget in crisis

By Lee Graves

High rankings are usually a cause for kudos at the University, but the latest round of state budget cuts has put U.Va. in a spot no one envies.

The University is near the top of the budget hit list — both in terms of total dollars and percentages — among public colleges and universities in the state. Only the Eastern Virginia Medical School must deal with larger percentage cuts.

Fortunately, officials at U.Va. have been anticipating the cuts with plans for a mid-year tuition increase, department-by-department reduction strategies and use of private funds to support core programs.

While Gov. Mark R. Warner said last week that 1,837 full- and part-time state employees would be laid off to reach his initial goal of $858 million in reductions, U. Va. President John T. Casteen III has made it clear that protecting jobs at the University is a No. 1 priority. Earlier this month he authorized implementing15 percent reduction plans prepared by University departments “with the exception of any proposal that may involve layoffs, furloughs or some program of enforced early retirements.”

Faculty call for tuition increase

By Carol Wood

More than 400 University professors answered the call to gather as a group for only the third time in the last half-century. The topic: the state budget crisis.

They came on Monday, Oct. 14, to send a strong message to state legislators that higher education in Virginia is under attack – and that the University of Virginia could be “in danger of slipping into mediocrity.”

“We are convinced that it is vital that we, the faculty, have a forum to voice our concerns, frustration and hopes,” said politics department chair Robert Fatton Jr., setting the tone for the evening. “…We will voice some criticisms, but we aim to be constructive. Tonight we will speak plainly, but in a spirit of cooperation and collaboration.”

There were remarks by several faculty members who balanced reason with despair over the current budget situation and how it might harm the University’s core academic mission. This was not a new problem to many in the Chemistry Building lecture hall who had weathered a similar storm.

Ruhi Ramazani, University elder statesman and professor emeritus of politics, pointed out that 10 years ago when an earlier budget crisis struck, “President Casteen called for ‘creative solutions from all members of the University community, working together in the spirit of change and innovation.’ That is what we are doing.”

Others hammered home the harmful effects budget cuts already have had on U.Va., specifically the almost year-long hiring freeze in the College of Arts & Sciences.

Casteen, offering some words of encouragement, said the University is in a better position than many other institutions, “partly because of the way we are managed. But no matter how you cut it, there will be a certain amount of difficulty for the next three to four years.”

He pointed to the newly created $6 million fund – $4 million of which is from the unrestricted endowment – and the as-yet-undetermined tuition surcharge to be levied at mid-year. “Our plan is to put that money into a central account to be used where we need it most – for University-wide academic needs. The most critical being to protect jobs.”

The focus of the night’s discussion shifted to two resolutions. The first called for support of a tuition increase, the second for suspension of planning for the proposed $128 million basketball arena.
Michael Smith, Faculty Senate chair and professor of government, led the charge on the tuition resolution. “Our goal with this resolution is to start making the case for an increased level of tuition, but it is only the beginning of what we must do,” he said. “We have to persuade the citizens of the state that the University is worth the money.”

While the popularity for the resolution was never in doubt, there was loud support for the Assembly of Professors to be the sponsoring entity, not the Faculty Senate. The resolution, overwhelmingly approved by a show of hands, would come directly from the assembly.

It fell to religious studies chair Harry Gamble to make a case for the second resolution — asking the president and the board to put the arena project on hold until academic needs can be met.

Acknowledging the symbolic nature of the resolution, he said, “While many of us would be delighted to have top-10 athletics programs, they are worth little until we have top-10 academic programs. Maybe, someday, we can have both, but academics must come first now.”

This triggered a lively, but civil, discussion as faculty alternately supported and opposed the resolution. Some repeated the mantras: “We need our core mission to be academic. … If we stop raising money for athletics, maybe we can attract … more to academics.”

Others advised caution. Biology professor Robert Grainger, a former Faculty Senate chair, said he believed taking on two resolutions might be a mistake. “We have set academics as a goal and putting athletics into the mix confuses the issue,” he said. “We came here tonight to make a point, and we have a chance to make one point. We’ll discount what we do if we focus on athletics.”

There was a palpable shifting of opinion in the ranks and a stalemate appeared imminent when Casteen offered some background on athletics fund-raising.

He explained that he had laid several obstacles in the path of the athletics department, first by delaying its last campaign by five years so that the academic campaign could get a head start, and second, by delaying an earlier promise to build the arena. In addition, he limited the athletics campaign to no more than 10 percent of the overall campaign total.
Casteen also explained that it was true some donors preferred to give to athletics while others preferred academics, but a large number split their gifts between the two. He said a number of gifts could be jeopardized by the faculty action.

“All I ask is that you think seriously about this,” Casteen said. “…I am concerned about breaking faith with donors who already have committed to this project and who look on athletics as an important part of student life.”

It was 9:15, more than two hours into the meeting, and the room quieted. Ramazani moved once again to the front of the room. “This has been a beneficial discussion and we have shared concerns in terms of symbolism,” said the veteran of 50 years of University observations. “I think we can convey that concern to the Board of Visitors … without alienating other constituents.”

The assembly, he said, still could signal to the board its belief that the University’s core mission and No. 1 priority must remain academic.

The arena resolution was tabled, and the meeting came to a close.

Casteen also has designated $6 million to retain faculty, support graduate students and protect core programs.

“It’s important to maintain key elements essential to academic excellence at the University,” Casteen said. “As much as possible, we must preserve the range of courses offered, the moderate size of classes and access to our libraries. In addition, we must recognize the valuable contributions of our classified employees in these tough times. They are critical to sustaining quality in patient care, teaching, research and dozens of other activities that are essential to the University’s mission. “

The Board of Visitors authorized the mid-year tuition surcharge earlier this month. The amount will be set by Leonard W. Sandridge Jr., executive vice president and chief operating officer, in conjunction with board members and the administration.

According to figures released by the state last week, U.Va. faces a 13 percent reduction in general funds, or $31.8 million, over two years in the latest round of cuts (a $2 million prepayment in June brings that total reduction to $33.8 million). That is higher than the 11 percent average among state higher education institutions and more than the cut of 12.8 percent, or $10.3 million, targeted for the College of William and Mary.

That two-year total for U.Va. is broken down as follows: for the current fiscal year, 2002-03, the academic division will receive $16 million less in state general funds for a total appropriation of $127.9 million; next fiscal year, the reduction will be $17.8 million, for a projected appropriation of $116.4 million. That doesn’t count further reductions that might be enacted by the General Assembly.

Those cuts come on the heels of a $25.9 million reduction for the current fiscal year, although that amount was partially offset by $12.1 million in additional revenue from a tuition increase that took effect this fall. A $33.8 million reduction was already projected for the 2003-04 fiscal year before last week’s cuts.

The University’s cumulative loss by the end of the biennium is projected at $98.2 million since 2001-02. Looking at it another way, the state general fund appropriation in 2003-04 will be 31 percent lower than two years earlier, when it stood at $166.3 million.

The most recent state cuts were revealed in a much-anticipated speech by Warner on Oct. 15. He announced that the 1,837 layoffs were necessary to address a two-year budget shortfall of at least $1.5 billion. The number of layoffs does not include higher education institutions.

Warner acknowledged the cost of cutbacks in higher ed. “The results at all our colleges, universities and community colleges will be larger classes, fewer course offerings and, for some students, perhaps additional time in order to graduate.”

The budget crisis is cause for great concern around Grounds. In addition to the Assembly of Professors on Oct. 14 (see story in box), the Faculty Senate devoted much of its meeting Oct. 10 to the issue. Casteen clarified that while protecting jobs is vital, some staff positions may be eliminated and employees could be reassigned to fill other vacancies.

Gene Block, vice president and provost, also said he planned to make faculty retention one of his focal points this year. While the University has lost some key people, he said it has fared well overall in retaining faculty.


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of the University of Virginia

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