The reasoning behind the differential cuts at University of Arizona

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As reported here last week, rumor had it that the University of Arizona quietly instituted differential cuts across the various departments/colleges in August, in part to deal with the ridiculous budget hole the Legislature has left them with because of the state’s budget crisis. A department head sent me an e-mail stating that 7 percent cuts had been made to most colleges while the College of Science and the professional schools (business/law) only got a 2 percent cut.

I asked UA media services for confirmation of that at about 3 p.m. Friday, but being a holiday weekend, didn’t expect to receive an answer until this week. I checked back with UA spokesman Johnny Cruz at noon today and he pointed me to this memo, released by UA President Robert N. Shelton today, which gives the administration’s reasoning behind the differential cuts. I’ll let you read the memo for yourselves, but point out one interesting paragraph:

This year, the College of Science has seen tremendous losses in many of its best and brightest faculty to both private and public universities. While the UA is always at risk of losing our very best to wealthier institutions, our ability to retain these faculty and protect the extraordinary, internationally recognized quality of our College of Science requires substantial financial resources that could only be realized via modest protection of their base budget from budget cuts.

Since the College of Science brings in more outside money (through federal science grants, for instance) than other colleges – and because labs cost more money than, say, a philosophy textbook – it’s kind of a big deal to keep COS flush and drawing good faculty and students. You definitely don’t want your cash cow to be bleeding red or get the reputation that science doesn’t matter in Arizona. However … what do 7 percent cuts to departments that don’t get outside funds say to those units? (Maybe it is, “Hustle more and get us some outside monies or continue to struggle.”)

I’ll unpack the memo more tomorrow, including Shelton’s assertion that there was consultation with various committees guiding the differential cut decision, and his statement that “the greatest value is being placed on undergraduate education and teaching,” claims faculty members are challenging. And I’ve also asked Cruz to find out the exact number of COS faculty lost this year, as well as what science departments they worked in.

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