UA’s Transformation – $12 million “directly out of the hides of those who teach.”

Where is the $12 million coming from?
Where is the $12 million coming from?

Yesterday, the Arizona Daily Star reported that the University of Arizona is earmarking $12 million to recruit “rising star” professors in the areas of environmental studies and biosciences. Reporter Becky Pallack was first told that the source of funds for that $12 was unknown. Her story was updated today with information from UA spokesperson Johnny Cruz, who said the money will come from “a variety of sources, including savings generated through other cuts, money made available due to federal stimulus dollars and existing money dedicated to research,” according to Pallack’s story.

Not to be nit-picky, but that isn’t a very specific answer. What EXACTLY are the sources? What “other cuts” specifically? And how exactly is UA going to use the federal stimulus dollars when UA administrators have said repeatedly that the stimulus dollars are only for two years and thus can’t really be used as permanent funds?

I’m someone who likes specifics. I think it is because I’m not the sharpest pencil in the box – I need things explained to me in minute detail so I can connect the larger dots. What I need, basically (and I think it is something UA students and their parents would appreciate, if not UA faculty and staff) is a flow chart that reads something like this:

  • $5 million from laying off 300 people in Departments X, Y, Z
  • $3 million from outside grants from X, Y, Z
  • $1 million from administrative savings by combining the secretaries and business managers from the colleges that were absorbed into the new Colleges of Arts, Letters and Sciences
  • $1 million from the tuition hike
  • $2 million from Federal Stimulus monies that we will eventually absorb with higher tuition

After reading Pallack’s story yesterday, I e-mailed UA President Robert Shelton asking where, specifically, the $12 million will come from, in light of the huge budget cut UA sustained last year and the massive mid-year tuition hike that was justified by UA administrators saying the university didn’t have enough money to operate.

He replied immediately, which is way cool because he’s a busy guy:

“I’ll check with our provost on the exact sources – overall this is part of our strategic planning (the “transformation”) where we invest in select areas.  You should also note the prior announcement about our investments in the humanities and social sciences – while not as large a number it is still significant.”

The investment into the humanities and social sciences Shelton mentions refers to a $300,000 faculty grant fund set up by Provost Meredith Hay in late August and $300,000 in graduate student fellowships funded by Hay’s office, Shelton’s office and the UA Foundation that is directed to faculty and grad students in the humanities, arts and social sciences. I’ll let you guys do the comparative math.

I thanked Shelton for his quick response and awaited reply of the exact source of the $12 million, but haven’t heard back. I called both his and Hay’s offices today at 1:30 today and left messages. If I get the details, I’ll share with readers here, but being a holiday weekend, I don’t anticipate that happening before Tuesday. But, in the meantime, I DID get an e-mail from a department head who said that the $12 million is coming “directly out of the hides of those who teach.”

Said department head mailed me from the department head’s private email, which seems unusual, although it does lend a little credance to the rumor of rampant paranoia of UA employees being discussed on the UA Defender blog/forum, as first reported Wednesday on Godblogging.

I’ve pasted the department head’s claim below, with the college acronyms translated in parentheses:

“The real story this fall is that the provost has announced sweeping redistributions of funds that massively hurt our ability to teach students. (Social and Behaviorial Sciences), the library, and (College of Humanities) got 7% cuts; (College of Science) and the professional schools got 2%. The 12 million initiative announced yesterday is coming directly out of the hides of those who teach, and these cuts will mean, straight up, that we will not be able to teach as many students, or as well.”

Obviously, it is just this person’s opinion that the cuts will mean fewer students will be served well, and we really won’t know until the end of the year which students, if any, are getting the short end of the stick. As for the differential cuts, Johnny Cruz is looking into that for me at this moment to get me a confirmation/denial as to if they happened and when.

No one likes getting his/her budget cut. I have sat with more than one unemployed person in the past month and watched the stress and despair eat them from inside out. But, the fact is, the state doesn’t fund education very well in Arizona. And, like any huge institution, there is no doubt waste in UA’s budget. The question is – where? The only way we, the public, would be able to tell, is if UA’s budget was completely transparent and written in easy to understand language. (A flow chart, I’m telling you! We need a flow chart!)

Is the $12 million earmarked for the science rock star profs really being pulled out of the backpockets of undergrads in an attempt to get more money for UA through the funds these rock stars can bring in through grants? Is there really tons of waste in the colleges that teach the most undergraduate students? Or could it lie in the expensive science labs courting the best professors and the best graduate students?

The sciences, in general, pull in more outside funding than, say, classical languages. And when you’re looking to shore up a state-decimated budget, you gotta get outside funding. If those millions brought in by sciences were then equally distributed across the campus to benefit all the students, that might be a good thing. But as it is now, outside funding tends to stay in the department/college that brought it in, be it ecology and evolutionary biology or poetry.

So, if things keep going this way (more funding for sciences, less for everything else), UA may become more a science/research institution and less a full-blown university. Is that a real threat? Maybe not. Maybe the state’s three universities need to divide up who does what. I’m just glad my anthropology-major, art-and-French-minor daughter is in her junior year at UA.

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17 thoughts on “UA’s Transformation – $12 million “directly out of the hides of those who teach.”

  1. Well said Sally.  The point that has been made is that the cuts will be made in larger fashion to colleges that do a lot of teaching.  The response, when confronting the administration, is that they are “working on” a tuition funds model of budget that will flow funds to those that produce credit hours. The problem…it is at earliest 3 years from implementation and some suggest as many as 5 years.  In the meantime, the three colleges hit most will have to struggle and cannot plan to create new initiatives that will attract dollars and students.  The morale is also too low to get faculty to want to create something great and exciting…especially when it may never really come to fruition and when the colleagues you work with to build it are leaving.

    1. Dear Anon:
      Is there any document you could point me to – or a person at the UA – who could confirm the tuition funds model won’t be working for at least three years? Was there a meeting? I mean, I know about the tuition funds group – but it sounds likethere was some meeting recently where people were told the TF model wouldn’t be ready for a few years. And, btw, glad to see you reading the blog.

  2. ANONs point above is right on.  I would talk to the Chair of SPBAC, Lynn Nadel, about when tuition flow will occur.  The discussion of when it will start, it is said, was at at SPBAC meeting.  I would also talk with any on the tuition flow task force itself….and maybe Dean’s Mitchnek and Wilder Bassett.

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