Casteen: Budget stalemate
won’t close University
Courtesy of the Daily Progress
assures staff and faculty of University’s
By Dan Heuchert
As the state staggered toward a possible budgetary shutdown,
U.Va. President John T. Casteen III used the occasion
of his annual State of the University address
April 14 to vow that the University will operate as usual.
is my intention and the [Board of Visitors’] intention to not participate” in
any shutdown, Casteen declared. “We will deal with this.”
At press time, the General Assembly remained deadlocked on
a two-year state budget, more than a month into a special
session called by Gov. Mark Warner
failed to pass a budget during the 60-day regular session.
Experts, legislators and state officials disagree on what
will happen if the stalemate persists until the July
1 beginning of the next fiscal year.
The University’s budget office has been planning for such an eventuality,
Casteen said, and will present a plan to remain operating to the Board
of Visitors in June.
assurance came early in Casteen’s wide-ranging, 70-minute address,
which touched on several other financial matters, the University’s new “Access
UVa” student financial aid plan, faculty and student research,
the upcoming capital campaign, enrollment profiles, faculty achievements
and building plans.
Casteen reserved his most pointed words, however, for an
issue that he has recently brought to the fore: student
housing, and in particular,
am becoming increasingly concerned about the safety and well-being
of students in rental housing,” Casteen said. While he acknowledged that student renters
are often at fault for safety hazards — removing batteries from smoke detectors,
for instance, and leaving doors and windows unlocked — he suggested
that some rental housing does not meet safety codes.
In addition, he noted that there is no local governmental
entity that safeguards tenants, and declared that the
balance of power is
in favor of
landlords. As an example, he asserted that landlords may legally
alter leases merely
by posting a notice on a Web site. “It is time for a balance to be re-established,” he
Casteen also decried what he called “the predatory nature of the local
rental market.” First-year students, he said, are often pressured into
signing leases for off-Grounds housing for their second years — just weeks
after settling into their dorms, “when they don’t yet know how to
shop, and have no history of signing leases,” Casteen said. “It’s
a practice I cannot identify in any other market,” he said.
University later announced a new housing policy designed to
reduce the pressure on students. )
The University is planning to build more upper-class housing — perhaps
in front of the new Ivy-Emmet parking garage, he said. Plans also are under way
to address, and likely replace, the Alderman Road first-year dorms, which were
constructed in the 1960s with an estimated 20-year lifespan.
In other matters, Casteen discussed the upcoming capital
campaign, forecasting that its public launch could occur
in fall 2005
or spring 2006. Already,
some $400 million has been raised during the “silent phase,” he said,
toward an eventual goal of at least $3 billion, which he labeled a “conservative
number.” Approximately two-thirds of that total would go toward budgetary
support, particularly for areas that received less support during the most recent
$1.4 billion campaign, and not toward bricks and mortar, he said.
Turning to admissions, Casteen noted an increase in African-American
and Hispanic applicants. He attributed the up-tick to
the Supreme Court’s decision last
summer to uphold affirmative action in admissions, plus increased recruitment
The Grounds are undergoing a dramatic change, he said,
with more than $500 million to be invested into capital
Casteen also touched on a few controversies that have
been raised by others. He declared himself sympathetic
cause of securing
a “living wage” for
employees of University contractors, but said the University lacks the legal
authority to write such a requirement into contracts.
Similarly, he said that state requirements prevent
extending employment benefits to same-sex partners,
and added that
to so-called “soft
benefits” like gym memberships has been counter-productive, drawing the
attention of those who are opposed to any legal recognition of same-sex relationships.