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The Weekly Blab 3.2

The Weekly Blab

Vol. 3, Number 2—August 25, 2008

 

Dear Colleagues,

 

Here we go with the second issue of the Weekly Blab for 2008-9.  As a constant reminder, your comments are always invited.  Remember, preliminary items may disappear without a trace upon further consideration!

 

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Department of What’s Going On With the Budget

At this point, we still don’t know what the final decisions are going to be about the budget for this year.  There has been a 6% across-the-board budget reduction to the universities, which could grow to 10% depending on decisions in Atlanta.  As I mentioned last time, we had $1.2 M more or less identified when the cut amount was 5%, so things therefore haven’t changed all that much at this point.

 

Needless to say, if the actual cut winds up being 10%, things will change.  At this point, we’d be looking at both additional budget cuts and revenue enhancements to address that possibility.  Again, I believe that while any cuts will certainly hurt, we’re in the best possible position to weather whatever cut may come.

 

I know many of you are interested in whether the cut will affect raises.  At this point, we honestly don’t know.  Last Wednesday, when I was at the BoR meeting, they said clearly that the raises were still on.  The very next day, we got an email from the system office saying that this was still up in the air.  Stay tuned…

 

This uncertainty, by the way, is the norm in quite a number of states.  If you want to see a place where things are much worse, check out my parents’ home state of Nevada, where the university system is looking at a 16% cut, and the Chancellor and Governor are in open combat.  The conflict even made it into an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

 

Department of What’s New at SPSU

Despite budgetary uncertainties, we’re moving ahead with a number of things.  First, the enrollment for Fall 2008 looks very healthy.  While the final numbers aren’t in yet, it looks like we’ll be up 6.5-7.5%, which is very good.  Of course, that means that class size limits are being pushed a bit more, so this means a bit more work for faculty and support staff. 

 

Work is progressing on a number of facilities issues.  I trust everyone has noticed all the work on the parking lots and road system, part of the entranceway project.  We’re now waiting on the city of Marietta to align its part.  Yes, we know that parking is tight, which is why the construction of the new Parking Deck will commence on or about October 15.  Just to remind you, students are being charged a higher “transportation fee” which is the source of the money to pay for the deck.  When it is complete, only those who pay the fee will be allowed to park in it.  Faculty and staff have the option of paying the fee and being allowed to park in the deck, or not paying it, and parking as they do now.

 

We’ve been working to add some capacity to Building E, by splitting two very large physics labs into four smaller labs (each still large enough to handle a 20 person section), and putting together some office and small classroom space into a fifth lab.  Thus, there will be a net increase of three labs.  Now that Buildings D and E have now had their “breezeways” enclosed (Building G is in progress), the next step will be to remove the old interior corridor doors (the glass ones that are always locked) in E, since they no longer serve any purpose.  These changes were paid for with year end funds from SPSU and from Georgia Highlands.

 

Burruss Auditorium is being refurbished, and will have new desks and seats, for a maximum capacity of 170 or so.  As soon as it is finished, in the next few weeks, classes from H-200 will be shifted there and the seats in H-200 will be repaired/replaced.  MRR funds from last year were used for this project.

 

You may have heard that the SPSU Foundation has signed a contract to purchase an office building on the corner of Manget Street and South Marietta Parkway (about 1 mile from campus) for the benefit of the University.  Assuming all goes well with the rest of the legal stuff that has to happen and with some minor renovations, we will be moving Continuing Education to this building between semesters.  This will give Continuing Education much more space, which will allow them to increase revenues, which will pay the p+i for the new building.  Some side benefits of this acquisition include more space overall, the freeing up of various space on the main campus (including room M-100), and allowing some redundancy of our IT network which will give us better “survivability” in the event of a tornado or other such disaster.

 

Planning work continues on the design of the Engineering Technology Center.  Many of you saw the presentations during kickoff week, and there’ll be a further presentation during the groundbreaking ceremony tentatively scheduled for September 25.   Planning work also continues on the expansion/adaptive reuse of Building I.  A conceptual model has now been selected, and is being refined.  At last Wednesday’s Board of Regents meeting, $4.8 M was approved for furniture and equipment for the Engineering Technology Center.

 

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

I attended three conferences this summer.  First came the joint Regents Advisory Committee on Academic Affairs/Student Affairs conference, loving called RACAA/RACSA.  The conference was at Reynold’s Plantation, where the keynote talk on the first evening was “Why Do Students Think We Are Not Groovy?” delivered by Dr. Christy Price, a Psychology professor at Dalton State.  The talk was a tongue-in-cheek look at how the way many faculty teach and the way today’s students learn doesn’t always mesh up.  You can be sure that a lively discussion about whether we need to change how we teach or if students need to change how they learn followed.

 

That next Sunday, it was up to Montreal with Jill and Mark (my wife and son) for the international meeting of the Society of College and University Planners.  I was on a panel talking about the USG’s six-year capital budgeting model and how the planning process worked, along with two other USG participants, as well as a consultant that many universities had used to prepare their plans.  The talk went well, and lots of people from other states were interested.  Montreal is a great city, but this time we only were there two days, so we didn’t do very much touristy stuff.  The first night we were there was the last night of the Montreal Comedy Festival, and a huge parade went by, right in front of the hotel we were staying at.  The parade had various folks dressed up in fantasy costumes (as trees, butterflies, giant robots…) and everyone in the audience was wearing paper hats with a pine tree cutout sticking up in front.  It was like a giant performance of Cirque du Soleil.  Adding to the surreal nature of it, the parade was also being broadcast live on TV, right where we were.  A little further up the St. Lawrence River, Paul McCartney and 250,000 of his closest friends were celebrating the 400th anniversary of Quebec with a free concert.  Well, I was in the same province, anyway.

 

On Tuesday morning, we hopped in the rental car (a Ford Escape—nice car!) and took off for New England.  Crossing the border wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be—we were caught in line for about 30 minutes.  What was driving me crazy was that our line was moving very slowly—about 3 minutes for every car, while in the same amount of time, two or three cars were going through from the lane on our right.  Of course, the lane on our left wasn’t moving at all, so things could have been worse.  Our border officer was a chatty sort, and wanted to know what Marietta, GA was like, explaining why it was taking so long.  Anyway, as we entered Vermont, the sun came out and the weather turned gorgeous for our ride through the Lake Champlain Islands.  This is a back-road way to go to Boston, and well worth the extra time, since the lake and the towns are lovely.  As soon as we hit New Hampshire, it turned drizzly again.  We drove down to New London (NH), where I hooked up with some old friends and spent the next day just looking over my old haunts and catching up.  Thursday, I dropped Jill and Mark off with her cousin in Worcester (MA), and drove into Boston for the American Association of State Colleges and Universities meeting.  The weather had become a veritable monsoon, and when I finally got into Boston, I learned that the GPS on the car wasn’t updated with the latest Boston road map (which had changed considerably after the Big Dig project), and it kept telling me to turn where there weren’t any roads.  I promptly found myself in Somerville, and had to turn around and try it again.  Ignoring the GPS to get into the financial district, I found the hotel, parked the car, and made a dash for where the conference was (about ½ mile away).  The umbrella I had did little good, and by the time I got there, I was drenched.

 

The conference was good, though, and I learned about a new content management system developed by the University of Texas-Arlington, which I’m told their faculty like.  It keeps track of faculty credentials (degrees, publications, achievements) and has scripts to pull out the needed data for things like Annual Evaluations, accreditation, etc.  Once the faculty members enter their data, the database does the rest, and the faculty aren’t bugged to produce the various documents that we currently call on them to do.  I’ve asked them to send me a copy, and I’ll keep you informed on if it does all that’s claimed.  Other topics at the conference included a session on sustainability, though it was more of a political argument than a “how to do it” sort of session.

 

Jill and Mark rejoined me on Saturday, and I took off the afternoon from the conference and went out to Cape Ann, driving to Magnolia, Gloucester, and Rockport.  The weather had turned nice, and Cape Ann is a really great place—beautiful shorelines, quaint towns, and even a castle.  Then Sunday, it was homeward bound, back to the scorching South.