Budget cuts: ?The edifice crumbles?

By By Chris Mumford, Staff Writer

By Chris Mumford, Staff Writer

Although doubt still clouds the fate of the U’s budget for next year, U President Michael Young appeared before the Academic Senate on Monday to offer an early prognosis.

The budget remains “unclear in the extreme,” Young said, but he has reason to hope that the situation will be a repeat of last year, only this time the looming 17 percent baseline cut from the Utah Legislature will be offset with state funds, rather than federal stimulus money, to again reduce the impact to around 9 percent.

“So, essentially, our budget would be held constant,” Young said.

In recent weeks, advocates for higher education have pushed for tax increases on gasoline and tobacco to help mitigate the impact of future cuts, but Young said these are increasingly unlikely to succeed.

“It appears that there is a movement against tax increases, perhaps with the exception of the tobacco tax, which would probably be dedicated towards health care,” Young said.
Young said he and his colleagues spent a lot of time explaining the situation to Gov. Gary Herbert and leadership in the Legislature, but said that, in general, the mistaken perception of the university’s dire financial situation exists.

The point that we’ve been making is exactly that8212;which is that these funds are not (interchangeable),” Young said, referring to the U’s inability to use research money for basic budgetary needs.

The use of research funds donated to the U is narrowly circumscribed by legal contracts, leaving little room for administrators to divert them to address other needs.
“There’s always a sense that we’re somehow awash in money and we can move it from one pocket to another,” he said.

However, that isn’t the case. The distinction is crucial because the expected 9 percent cuts would affect the U’s baseline budget, which Young referred to as the university’s foundation.

“At the end of the day, if they start to cut the budget severely…the edifice crumbles,” he said.

Chris Nelson, senator from the College of Architecture and Planning, proposed that the U create a stipulation that any future endowments must allow 5 percent of its donation to be spread across the U. So over time, the science-based colleges, which garner the most grants and are faring better than other colleges such as Humanities and Social and Behavioral Science, can share some of their success with the rest of campus.

In other news

Beyond the budgetary doom and gloom, senators also heard a presentation on a new publication system theses that would reduce costs to students by digitizing the process.
“That’s the goal: We’re going to save some trees and we’re going to save students the cost of printing,” said Chuck Wight, senior vice president for academic affairs.

Changes to the way theses are filed, which will now include master’s in addition to doctoral works, will create a database that will be searchable using Google and Yahoo.

In other business, the registrar’s office will begin to require students in the Math, Business and Engineering schools to complete prerequisites before enrolling in upper-division courses. Students in these colleges will not be able to register for a class unless they have completed the prerequisites.

Elsewhere on campus, students might be able to enroll in a course that they lack prerequisites for and it is left to the professor to decide whether to allow them to stay in the class.

Professors from the colleges where the rule changes are taking place will still retain the authority to waive these requirements.

[email protected]

Mike Mangum

At the Academic Senate meeting held Monday, U President Michael Young addressed the budget cuts the U is facing. Young said he has spent time explaining the U?s financial situation to Gov. Gary Herbert and other leaders in the Legislature.