President presents budget reduction proposal

The University must reduce its $1.8 billion budget by $35.6 million by July 1 to adhere to new budget limitations set by the state legislature.

This budget would be in place until June 30, 2009. The University, however, plans to cut $50.4 million from the budget because it anticipates another reduction by January 2009.

“This is the most severe budget cut that USF and the State University System has ever seen,” said President Judy Genshaft.

Genshaft, however, said that although these cuts must be made, no programs, departments or tenure-earning faculty will be eliminated. University Police and financial aid will also avoid any budget cuts.

“No majors or minors are cut,” she said.

In order to meet the budget reductions, the University presented a budget reduction proposal to the Board of Trustees (BOT). It listed goals USF plans to achieve in order to make the cut. The proposal was passed and the University will create a finalized budget within the next month.

One action the University will take is closing down the campus, excluding the new Marshall Center and the Library, after dark. These buildings will receive more nighttime security because they will remain open. Also, there will be more students in each class, and the variety of classes as well as the number of sections will be reduced, Genshaft said.

“(However), we’re very committed to having as many classes as possible,” Genshaft said.

Vice President of Student Affairs Jennifer Meningall said that if students are better prepared when registering – for example, by registering as soon as classes become available and regularly meeting with advisors – they will not have problems enrolling in classes they need.

“Behaviors, because of these reductions, are going to have to change,” Meningall said.

Student Government (SG) president Gregory Morgan said that if larger class sizes are not supported by enough faculty and staff, the University’s quality of education might suffer.

Morgan said that SG would continue working with the administration to address student concerns.

BOT member Sherrill Tomasino said she has no concerns about the proposal.

“We’ve held the right core values,” she said. “It’s going to be hard, but we can come out on target.”

She said it is impossible for the University to please everyone when making cuts.

“No one wants to do anything that will affect or hamper our success,” Tomasino said. “They can’t please everybody 100 percent of the time.”

The University, except for some residence halls, patient clinics and buildings that house animals, will completely close during the last week of December. During that time, employees will take three days of mandatory, unpaid vacation, she said.

Genshaft said that her three main concerns are the inability to give faculty and staff a raise for the next two years, students who may find it financially impossible to attend USF and employees who may be laid off.

“I’m very concerned with students remaining in college and graduating,” she said. “Any students that are having financial difficulty and are worried about attending school in the fall, don’t just drop out or stop out.”

Genshaft said she has asked Student Affairs and the Financial Aid Office to offer financial aid counseling and emergency financial aid to students who qualify.

The University will eliminate about 450 positions. Most of these positions, however, are unfilled because of the hiring freeze instituted in January. Among the jobs, however, are about 75 filled positions. Some of these employees will be laid off, while others will be moved to different positions within the University.

“I would be extremely surprised with that number of layoffs,” Wilcox said.

Although the University is unsure exactly how many employees will be let go, Human Resources will be working individually with those laid off, to help them find jobs and write resumes, Genshaft said.

As part of the budget cuts, USF will also make some structural changes.

Within the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), the administration and operating expenses for smaller departments, such as women’s studies and Africana studies, will be consolidated to share resources. Also, the Institute for the Study of Latin America and the Caribbean (ISLAC) and the Institute on Black Life will be merged into CAS. The School of Architecture and Community Design will also assimilated into CAS. Each department and institution, however, will keep its academic autonomy.

“There will be no change in the academic structure,” said Dwayne Smith, senior vice provost.

Genshaft said the University had been anticipating and preparing for the cut.

“This is a reduction that doesn’t come as a big surprise,” Genshaft said. “In January, we anticipated that the state budget was going to be sinking and we would all need to be taking cuts.”

In July 2007, USF had a budget cut of $12.2 million, and in January 2008 suffered another cut of $4.4 million. For the next year (2008-2009), USF was instructed by the state to cut its budget again, by $19 million, bringing the total amount of cuts to $35.6 million.

Within the next month, the University will have deducted this amount from its budget.

“We truly hope that is enough,” Genshaft said.

For the 2007-2008 year, USF received 23 percent of its total budget from the state. That number has been reduced to 18 percent for 2008-2009.

“This money is instructional money,” Genshaft said. “It pays for our professors, our student employment, our advisors – anything that is academic. There is no state money, for example, in athletics.”

The only non-private money in athletics is federal funding for Title IX, which is used to support women’s athletic teams. About $300,000 is given to USF yearly for Title IX, Wilcox said.

Although the University must cut 35.6 percent from its budget because of the loss of state funds, it plans to reimburse some cuts with nonrecurring funds. Nonrecurring funds are one-time-use money that the University has on hand, somewhat like petty cash. This means that some money will not be regularly received from certain sources. Once spent, the University cannot expect to have it again next year.

With this one-time-use money, the University can only hire non-tenure earning staff. Examlples of non-tenure earning staff are graduate assistants and adjunct faculty.

According to the proposal, the University projects that it can reimburse the cuts by $6.5 million. This would bring the overall loss to approximately $29 million.

Genshaft and the vice presidents will not take a pay raise this year, in light of budget restrictions.

Faculty reactions to the budget proposal Genshaft presented the proposal to the Faculty Senate and the BOT. After the senate meeting, faculty members questioned Provost Ralph Wilcox, voicing their concerns about the proposal, which ranged from incomplete information to allegations of racial prejudice. Some, like associate professor of government and international affairs Steve Tauber, blamed the financial woes on Tallahassee.

“The government of this state doesn’t value education,” Tauber said. He said was disappointed by the amount of money allocated to USF for use in educational and general funds, as well as government reluctance to approve large tuition increases.

While Wilcox would not publicly criticize the government, he agreed that USF’s tuition remains a major issue.

“Our tuition levels are miserably low,” Wilcox said. “The old adage is true: You get what you pay for.”

Some concerns were locally focused. Kim Vaz, chair of the department of women’s studies, accused the administration of making racially and sexually biased decisions.

“I know we are all uncomfortable talking about race,” she said. “(But) we have been treated miserably.”

Vaz said that many of the departments faced with consolidation – including the Institute on Black Life, ISLAC, and the departments of Africana and women’s studies – have chairs who are female or ethnic minorities.

Wilcox, however, did not avoid the topic.

“I concur – such dialogue should take place in a university,” he said. “One could just as easily point to (the School of Architecture and Community Design) or one of the small departments in the College of Education.” These departments – headed by white males – are just as vulnerable, he said.

Despite the informative nature of the meeting, some in attendance said the administration was less than forthcoming.

“I think there is more information that needs to come out,” Tauber said. Though his department did not have any proposed job losses, he said he is concerned with the fate of smaller departments.

Sherman Dorn, president of the USF chapter of the United Faculty of Florida, said he will ensure that the process remains honest and open.

“I expect to be with the administration every step of the way towards transparency,” he said.

The meeting produced mixed reactions from the faculty, said Larry Branch, vice president of the faculty senate. His concerns pertained to the inequality between the Tampa campus compared to the regional campuses and USF Health. More time was spent in the assessment and deliberation stages in Tampa, and more of the information has been shared to the public, he said.

“Those in academic affairs (at the Tampa campus) have information to judge the appropriateness of reductions. At least they know what they are dealing with,” Branch said. “USF Health is still in the rumor stage.”