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The Weekly Blab 3.1

The Weekly Blab

Vol. 3, Number 1—July 28, 2008

 

Dear Colleagues,

 

Just when you thought you were safe, here’s another issue of the “Weekly” Blab.  Last year, I quickly ran out of time and wasn’t able to produce these.  Some folks were kind enough to let me know they missed them, and that I should try to gear the Blab up again.  I can’t promise that I’ll be able to do it weekly, but I will put it out as often as possible.  Your comments are always welcome, and if there’s a topic you’d like to see addressed, please let me know.

 

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Department of “How Cool Is That?”

We had a great year last year.  We got two new programs approved (Chemistry, Psychology), got a major building approved (the Engineering Technology Center) and another approved for adaptive reuse (Building I), had our enrollment go up nicely again ton new all-time highs, landed a number of targeted initiatives, went through a great accreditation visit for Architecture, got the Southern Polytechnic Applied Research Center up and running, installed a gaming lab in CSE, got a first round of Faculty Mini-Grants distributed, and had our largest graduating classes ever.  And we hired a large incoming class of new faculty members with great credentials.  Let’s not forget that our own Carol Barnum won the 2009 Regents’ Teaching Excellence Award, and more faculty than ever published and delivered papers.  So, like I said, we had a great year.

 

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Department of “But It’s Not All Sunshine and Roses”

The not so good news is the economy.  As I’m sure you’re all too aware, the cost of living is going up, the cost of gasoline is sky high, and the economy is heading south.  As a result, Governor Purdue has called on all state agencies to identify a 3.5% budget cut for 2008-9, and a 4% (i.e., an additional 0.5%) budget cut for 2009-10.  The Chancellor, in order to give the system some choices, has asked each university to identify 5% of the budget for a potential cut.  For SPSU, that amounts to some $1.2 million.  The cuts to be identified, we are told, need to be structural—they can’t be one-time savings.  Also, the Chancellor said that the cuts can’t be across-the-board (that is, we can’t cut everyone’s budget by 5% and let it go at that).

 

Does this mean that we’re going to see our budget cut by 3.5%?  Not necessarily—the Governor may decide that higher education will be spared all or part of the cut.  The Chancellor may decide that some universities can take a larger cut and others a smaller one for various strategic reasons.  So, the cut may be less or more than 3.5%.  Since the election is in November, it’s my guess that we won’t know anything for sure until after then.  As you can imagine, this makes it really difficult to do any planning or to implement anything.  For example, for those of you wondering what happened to last year’s equity adjustments—now you know.  We have engaged a firm to update our last salary study, so that when we do apply adjustments, both faculty and staff can be included.  Actually implementing any adjustments will have to wait until we know where we are fiscally.  If the actual budget cut is small, we may be able to adjust at mid-year.  If it’s large, we may have to hold off until times improve.  In any event, we’ll keep you informed as things develop.

 

I’m sure that many of you are wondering how we’re going to cut the $1.2 million.  This is a delicate operation, in that we don’t want to do anything that will harm our core mission (instruction), but it’s impossible to make a cut of that magnitude without actually cutting some things in academic affairs.  Since we’re 60% or so of the overall operation, all things being equal, $720,000 of the cut would come from us.  Please remember that the document that we will be giving the university system is where we plan on making the cuts.   The actual cuts will depend on how much we’re cut, and what the situation is at the time we make the cuts, which may be substantially different than it is now.

 

What we’ve identified is a variety of things, including some currently open positions.  On the faculty side, this includes faculty lines from a number of searches that failed for various reasons.  Does this mean we won’t re-advertise the positions next year?  No—because we will be able to shift money from other lines to cover them if they are strategically important to us.  In the end, money will be allocated to where it is needed most, and will be shifted from locations where it is needed less—same as always.  Another place where we identified a cut ($200,000) is in next year’s capital equipment budget.  In our original budget, we had increased the capital budget from $395,000 (where it had been for a long while), to $500,000.  Now we may have to cut it to $300,000.  Since we’ve been able to spend well over $1 million per year on capital equipment for each of the past two years, this shouldn’t sting too badly.   There were a number of other small cuts, but this gives you the basic idea.

 

I’m not going to lie to you—no matter how you slice it, a $1.2 million cut is a lot of money.  Our increase in strategic appropriation this past year was about $1.5 million, and this would take most of it away.  We can’t just operate on the same budget as last year, since we have already spent much of the strategic appropriation on new faculty for next year—that’s what we got the money for.  A cut of this magnitude will definitely put a major crimp in the plans we had for next year.  Our growth and the financial resources we’ve gained over the past few years, however, puts us in a much better position to sustain whatever cuts may come than would have been the case a few years ago.

 

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Department of “So Now What?”

OK, what this means for next year is that we’ll have to play things cautiously.  We won’t be able to support new initiatives as easily, and we’ll have a bit less capital money to spend.  We’ll advertise for new faculty, but we’ll have to be cautious about how many we’ll be able to hire until the budget situation becomes clearer.

 

We will be able to do some new things.  We have some mini-grant money from our STEM grant for SPSU faculty to work with middle school faculty to help expand the “pipeline” of students going into science and engineering.  You’ll hear more about this soon, and I hope you’ll apply.  Also part of the STEM grant was the establishment of a tutoring center.  The space has been identified and renovated (bottom floor of Howell), and the furniture has been ordered.  It will open the first week of classes or so.  I hope you’ll all drop by to take a look, and that you’ll encourage your students to use it. 

 

We’ll be moving forward with some new degree programs as well.  We’ve just submitted letters of intent for a B.S. in Political Science and for an M.S. in Instructional Design.  The proposal for the B.S. and M.S. in Accounting is almost ready, and will go in any day now.  We’re waiting on the results of the needs survey, and our proposals for the evening programs in engineering are waiting to go.  We’ve sent the proposal for the DPS in IT downtown again to see if they’ll consider it.  There will be a few other proposals developed this year beyond these.  We’ve almost finalized the science education memorandum of understanding with KSU, which will allow us to start offering those concentrations.

 

So, we’ll have a busy year, and hopefully a great one.  More as it develops.

 

--Zvi