President Judy Genshaft believes USF must do more than freeze hiring to endure progressively worsening budget cuts, saying that the way the University spends a lot of its money is inefficient in a Faculty Senate meeting Wednesday.
Genshaft said that she expects further budget cuts in the coming months and outlined a basic plan for dealing with the change.
“What I’m trying to do is get the University to come together,” she said.
In Fall 2007, State University System institutions, including USF, were told they had to shave off 3.6 percent of the money they received from Florida, and were hit with another 3.8 percent cut after the start of the spring semester. It’s unclear whether the state will slam the SUS with another cut, so Genshaft has called for USF to reduce its budget by 15 percent for the fiscal year, which ends June 30.
One area through which Genshaft thinks the University can reach this goal is centralized spending. As it now stands, spending is spread among individual departments: each department independently purchases supplies and equipment based on its own needs.
“Right now we are all working in our own little houses, which is nice, but it’s not working,” Genshaft said.
The disadvantage of this fragmented system, Genshaft said, is that the University cannot save money on bulk purchases or expensive pieces of equipment.
“This is a huge market,” she said, “and we have not been smart in the way we have been purchasing.”
Genshaft was not clear on how much money consolidated spending might save or if it was enough to soften the blow of recent budget cuts. She remains determined, however, to make every bit count.
“My mother told me ‘Don’t be too proud to pick a penny up off the floor,'” she said, “and I’m not.”
Other faculty members are less optimistic that centralized purchasing can ease budget cuts. Emanuel Donchin, a professor of psychology, thinks that with rising student enrollment rates, the University may sacrifice value of education. He feels that USF cannot afford to increase student levels, cut budgets and still maintain quality education.
“If we cannot afford to teach them, we must reduce enrollment,” he said. “If the budget is cut and enrollment increases, education quality will suffer.”
Provost and Vice President of Student Affairs Ralph Wilcox echoed this concern. He said he would rather see enrollment reduced than allow any negative impact on the quality of education.
“For us to think that we can continue to provide quality education to students with $50 million less in the budget would be delusional,” he said. “We are going to have to do things differently tomorrow than we did yesterday and it’s going to make people uncomfortable.”
Genshaft did not respond directly to talk of reducing enrollment. She emphasized that while budget cuts have a detrimental effect on the school, it should not impede its progress toward becoming a top university.
“I don’t want this to be a time where all new things are stopped,” she said.
Genshaft also addressed concerns from members of the University community that expansion on campus takes funds away from education. She said the construction is funded by “completely separate money that cannot be used for instruction.”
In response to fears expressed by faculty and students that summer courses might be cut – as other Florida schools plan – Genshaft said she planned to leave summer courses intact. She said she would like to cut students’ “time to graduation,” however, since both the University and students would save money.
Reducing the amount of time students spend in college is an ongoing goal of the University. As USF is now pushing for entry into the American Association of Universities, it is actively attempting to graduate students on time, as the number of years they spend in college has an effect on whether the University is admitted to the AAU.
Genshaft and other faculty members suggest that everyone from professors to students prepare for adjustment to the cuts.
“This is going to change our culture,” she said. “There are going to be some big, big changes.”