Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Preemptive Budgets & "Critical Areas"

We have been asked to create a new post to accommodate discussion of the following item, received 9/23 as a comment, and which reads as follows:

This is from today's Wildcat (I know, I know, but...):
"[Arizona Board of] Regents' president Ernest Calderon said the university system will have to pursue outside funding to provide for an adequate operating budget.
Gov. Jan Brewer introduced the idea of a temporary sales tax; however, the state legislature has been unresponsive to the idea so far. Other possible sources of outside funding will be discussed at the meeting.
'Our goal is to make sure the universities are adequately funded,' said Calderon.
In addition to approving the 2010 budget, the board will discuss a preemptive budget for 2011. In this preemptive budget, the UA will present 'critical areas' that are in need of funding in order for the university to remain competitive. The preemptive budget will be sent to the governor’s office on Oct. 1.
Following state budget discussions, the board of regents will address Capital Improvement Plans for the three state universities. The UA Capital Improvement Plans will amount to $124.9 million over the next three years and include the stadium renovation and modern streetcar projects, which the university hopes to start next fiscal year.
Joel Valdez, senior vice president of business affairs, said if the plans are approved then the UA could start design work for the future projects this year."

OK, can someone explain what a "preemptive budget" is? Is anyone on this blog involved in such a discussion? Are depts being asked to provide input on this matter? There is talk of "critical areas" for ... investment? divestment?
All of these buzzwords worry the heck out of me...
Any comments????
[Signed "Chicana y que?"]

That comment was immediately followed in our mailbox by this one:

"Wow, is this an important post and question! Note that they are supposed to put in a rationale for funding of 'critical areas.'
To my knowledge, this has not been run by Faculty Governance at all. There has been no discussion of this deadline and nothing has been run by SPBAC or other faculty committees to my knowledge.
There is, of course, the strategic plan, but that clearly did not guide the differential cuts all that much.
So we can only assume that these decisions... what should be funded and, again,what is a 'critical area,' have been made by our administration already. Are those 'critical areas' the same ones used for differential cuts?
Am I wrong? Is Chicana y Que? This is VERY serious and I think it is worthy of a post of its own, Evelyn(s). " [ Signed Anonymous 4:09 pm]

Happy to oblige. Here's your post of your own.

PS - I hope you all appreciated our Wildcat editors' sense of humor - or sense of the absurd - in placing side by side on the front page of today's paper two complementary stories: "Shelton Warns of Further Cuts" to the tune of $50M, right next to the companion piece "ABOR to talk of stadium upgrade" to the tune of $82M plus $35M ( total $117M ) for a streetcar track (1.1 mile extension of the streetcar from Campbell to Park).
Well, yeah! Our leaders know what they're doing, where they're going, where they're taking the University; they know which side their bread is buttered on!
Isn't it time we knew where we're going too?
Read the "Shelton Warns of Further Cuts" story here. And the Stadium-Streetcar story here.
And don't miss the part about "the new, modern scoreboard"!
We're actually going to be posting a Scoreboard of our own, right here, early next week (hopefully Monday) when the results of the Faculty Poll I are announced by the Senate. Why do I keep writing "Faculty Poll I" (you ask)? Because if we don't get there the first time, our successors will, soon after (for more on that, see 9/22-9/23 comments under the "Faculty Poll" post below.)


  1. If nothing else, I hope these articles open peoples' eyes a bit more. The Wildcat stories are a perfect example of corporate autocracy and the total absence of faculty governance. Administrators do not build their careers by making sure kids learn how to read and write. They build buildings, stadiums, tracks, etc. Why wouldn't they make decisions that bolster their own careers when there are essentially no educators to stand in their way? Has anyone looked at Shelton's inner circle: business, science, athletic director.

    The administration will respond to today's humorous juxtaposition of the two articles in the Wildcat by saying that the two sources of money--the operating budget and the money for capital improvement--come from different places and cannot be mixed.

    Smoke and mirrors--and bull. It is all connected and we know it. For instance: we know that the people donating money for the stadium are the same people voting not to have taxes raised by one inch in order to teach our children the basics.

    More to the point: Business, grant sciences, sports, and administrators looking to build buildings they can brag about all have a place at the table. You know who has no voice, no power base, no place at the table? Us The educators. The people who teach. We are the hired labor that many would like to outsource (so that there is one lecturer in some distant city broadcasting his show to our students in their classroom/theater. Many administrators would like to use the model of the broadcasting professor combined with self-guided computer programs to phase out the need for faculty. You think I am being extreme? Wake up. These things are already happening. That makes us the labor, and the administration the employer. We do not have the same priorities or aims. Faculty do not want to feel like the labor, the employee, but that's what we are and we have little more voice in what happens here than we would in a factory that bans unions.

    The last twenty years in public higher education has seen a slow creep of power from the faculty to the central administration. We are now losing control of how we teach our classes and what should be taught.

    What is to be done (in the spirit of keeping this discussion positive)? Well, look at what our more enlightened and more courageous colleagues are doing in California. We need to call a spade a spade and then do whatever it takes to have a voice, to become a part of the power struggle over what the university should be and where the money should go. It doesn't matter what is right or wrong--those without a voice, without leverage, are going to lose. Can it be done? Of course. Collective action would have results. I am not sure we live in the right times--I see too much apathy and too much deference to the status quo. I hope that I am wrong.

  2. Thank you Sandra. How do we get there? What I see shaping up in the near term is a movement more toward the center - both the political center and the center of the beast - in the form of the faculty forum that Lynn Nadel has proposed. The UA Defender has baggage, and connotations - we're referred to as "disgruntled," and "whiny," and "dissident," which makes it easier for the bosses you refer to to be dismissive of us than for them to discredit a faculty group that will have grown out of the Faculty Governance Leadership forums (or fora - I don't know what faculty you're in...), with the cachet of legitimacy attached to that body. Of course, any and all of those who have gathered here can also attend the meetings of the forum (which LN has proposed but which remains unnamed - maybe it'll still be called something like FGLF (fig leaf!) for Faculty Governance Leadership Forum).

  3. wow, I am surprised, yet glad that Evelyn et al picked up my comment... because this issue of "preemptive budgts" smells like another trick from the m hay "culture change bag", that is, it could bring another hit to units and force them to "downsize" but this time with ABOR's blessing... so we may see more 90-day pink papers flying down from the tower...

    Now, check what the Az Daily Star is saying about what will happen tomorrow (even as we are still not there yet...) pay attention to the "what's happening today" section of the message... over

    Rally today focuses on UA's fiscal woes
    By Becky Pallack

    Students and faculty members will rally on the UA mall to voice their frustration about $100 million in state budget cuts last year and this year.
    Top administrators will meet in Flagstaff to ask for more money next year while deans study ways to cut more this year.
    Today is the day to talk about budget cuts at the University of Arizona. Here's what you need to know to be part of the conversation.
    So far
    • The state Legislature last year cut 18 percent of its funding to the UA. This year's cuts will be 5 to 7 percent, depending on the budget that eventually will be approved by the Legislature and governor.
    • For in-state undergraduate students, the cost of tuition and fees at the UA is up 24 percent from a year ago.
    • More than 550 jobs were cut last year, through layoffs, unfilled vacancies and attrition. But enrollment is up by about 1,000 students, so many faculty and graduate students have a heavier teaching load.
    • Deans and department heads are trimming this year's budgets and bracing for another round of cuts, but they already have consolidated operations and cut staff.
    "We're pretty close to the bone," said libraries Dean Carla Stoffle. Her department's budget cuts amount to $2 million, or about 19 percent, since July 2007.
    "I am just really without a clue as to how we would make another budget cut," Stoffle said.
    But more difficult decisions are coming.

    What's happening today

    • In Flagstaff, UA President Robert Shelton will ask the Arizona Board of Regents to approve a $388 million budget for next year. That's a $40 million increase from this year.
    He wants $16.2 million to support enrollment growth and $1.4 million to increase community college partnerships. He also will ask for $13.5 million to expand medical programs in Phoenix as well as $8.6 million for faculty funding.

    • Meanwhile, on campus, students and faculty members are meeting at the stage on the mall at 12:15 p.m. to voice concerns about how budget cuts have affected them. There will be signs, speeches and demonstrations. Some are planning teach-ins to educate students about financial issues.

    There also will be chalk outlines of budget-cut "victims" on the sidewalks beginning at 7:30 a.m.

    What's next
    • Federal stimulus money, $60 million this year and $50 million next year, will help.
    For faculty and staffers, stimulus money means no furloughs, and it saved some jobs from being cut. Other ideas on how to spend the funds include upgrading technology.
    • Once stimulus money dries up, there will be a steep drop in funds. Shelton and other administrators liken it to a cliff.
    "We need to come up with a strategy to replace that $100 million loss" from the state, Shelton told a staff group last week.
    The UA can't replace it without cutting some programs, increasing tuition and fees, and looking for new revenue sources.

    The UA can ask for tuition and fee increases in February. The regents will hold hearings and make decisions in March.
    Deans are studying where sacrifices may be made when more hits come.
    "It's very hard to start limiting down what we do," Shelton told a group of graduate students earlier this week.
    But the UA no longer has the means to offer everything it would like to, he said.

  4. Hmm. Fig Leaf. I like it.

    Sandra's post is interesting, mixing the sacred with the profane, in conformance with a fig leaf metaphor. The sacred -- big-time athletics amongst others. The profane-- collective action.

    Personally I'd like to focus on what we can actually accomplish. The problem of big-time athletics is bigger than the UA, bigger even that the PAC-10 to which we belong. It is a cultural issue. If we want to sort this one out we need to be working for a national solution. I say this as someone who has directly asked the President if he wouldn't like to go down in history as the leader strong enough and wise enough to turn around the forces of big-time athletics and return the university's focus to where it should be -- big-time academics.
    I also discussed this at length 3 years ago with Myles Brand, former President of the NCAA, who sadly just died at too young an age -- he was the Dean at the UA in 1984 that hired me. His efforts went in the direction of insisting that athletes also really be students, and in pointing out that the vast majority of athletes are not in the major sports (basketball and football) but nonetheless benefit greatly from the profits these sports generate. I happen to agree with Sandra on this one -- I think we'd be a lot better off if sports played a much smaller role in our life at universities. But I wouldn't stop there. I also believe we'd be better off with a much less "cushy" student union, and dorms, etc., etc., etc. Sadly these things are facts of life at American universities (in particular), hence reflect something about American culture as much as about the UA, or universities in general. We should certainly work to try to change this, but that's a windmill-tilting process and I'd prefer to use my energy dealing with things we have a significant chance of changing in the short or medium term.

    I feel the same about serious forms of collective action - like strikes, etc. I don't think the general public will be kindly disposed to a bunch of highly-paid public servants taking such an action. We may think we are underpaid, and indeed we are, compared to our peers, but we are much better paid than the vast majority of our fellow citizens, who by the way we are asking to support us at a higher level. Though we work hard, and are often under-appreciated, we lead a privileged life and we dare not forget it. I feel we have to find a way to solve our problems within our institutions -- good leadership and intelligent involvement by faculty, staff and others is what we need.

    I'll start working on that fig leaf soon. Let's hope it does more than just cover our nakedness.

    Lynn Nadel

  5. A guest opinion in this morning's Daily Star by President Shelton and Provost Hay.

    Interesting...I have you?

  6. I wanted to comment on the President and Provost's op-ed. There is much I disagree with in it, but no one can disagree with the message to campus to be active in politics and against this legislature.

    Strange though, this is the strongest statement our President has made to campus...and a good statement...about the pain and impact of cuts. I have seen one other good, public op-ed of Robert's and it was in the Az Republic talking about how a world class univeristy is important to economic development and how the cuts hurt that.

    Why such a strong statement...finally...and why now the call to activism? I don't mean to be harsh by any respect because the President supported the student led protests in Phx in the spring.

    I say to him, great work showing the public what we are really dealing with. But when it occurs now, after the bulk of the legislative session, with dissatisfaction rising on campus, it also looks "funny".

    As for me, I have written numerous letters, emails and other personal communications with our state legislative members.

  7. I posted the link to President Shelton and Provost Hay's op-ed today, which is well written, and I appreciate deeply for its strong public statement on our budget situation and the pain we are feeling.

    One MAJOR criticism howevever and a MAJOR inaccuracy.

    "First, which units have the greatest capacity to generate new external revenue into the university above and beyond tuition dollars? In times of failing state support, we must turn to those units that can generate new revenue which in turn will support the entire university until stable financial times return.
    • Second, which units have the greatest outreach and impact on the citizens of our state? Our mission to serve the entire state and support its citizens is of the utmost importance during the financial crisis.
    • And third, which units will most likely have a positive economic impact on the state, with an emphasis on job creation and growth? If the state of Arizona is to recover and stabilize its own revenues, then the university has a duty to protect and invest in those areas where the university has the greatest impact on job and business growth."

    Note the reference to "units". What units are they talking about that they looked and assessed for cuts? The "units" they are talking about are entire colleges not which "units" (departments, institutes, etc) bring revenue, do outreach and the other criteria.

    THIS is the mistake folks...the mistake in process...the mistake that they have not admitted and seem to not want to try to correct.

    By leveling massive cuts on some colleges and not others, they are leaving the surgical decisions to Deans...but after badly beating one patient versus another.

  8. On the vote, I have reminded five people as Evelyn suggested and a few had not yet voted. Do your part. This is important. No matter how you vote (confidence or not), no one will ever take our faculty or faculty leadership seriously with a low turnout and any hint at apathy.

  9. Good! Now we have to remind 5 people to check that they got an "I voted" icon.

    Hey,* maybe we can apply for some of that "critical areas" funding - we've been as critical as anyone, and more critical than most.
    * that's Hey! not Hay!
    (c'mon, lighten up a little - we can do this.)

  10. ok, sure, what do we know then what a "preemptive budget" is? the op ed does not talk about this at all... or does it?

  11. hey u all... I am still waiting, along with Jerry Seinfeld, George Constanza and Cosmo Kramer to hear about an answer to the "preemptive budget" question/definition/explanation/ or heck rumor...

    that also involves the "critical areas" for funding that someone in the tower's imagination (yes, the tower is becoming its own character in this charade) is fabricating as we speak (the dynamic duo MacCarthy-Allvin perhaps?) since the regents will receive this "preeemptive (doesn;t this sound like a Bush-Chenney invention?) budget" next weekend...
    over over....

  12. This is an important question, Chicana y que, and one that I hope our faculty leadership will ask. Lynn, if you are there, has SPBAC even heard about this extremely important issue? After all, SPBAC is the body that creates the strategic plan and provides budget advice. If they were not involved in the discussion and definition of "critical areas" and/or a "preemptive budget" and if faculty (Committee of Eleven or Fac. Senate) were not involved in what is probably the most strategic decision to hit this campus, then we have a major problem.

    I also am shocked about the lack of influence SPBAC and faculty senate appeared to have on the resulting differentials (especially how they were figured out). Again, a major strategic decision that will affect the direction of campus for years...and no direct faculty involvement.

    Not a hit on our faculty leadership...they stay in the game. I just don't think they were invited to play in any way other than the position of pawn.

  13. A quick reply since I am here digitally, but at a distance physically. This issue of a "preemptive budget" is brand new. There has not been a meeting of SPBAC for 2 weeks. I missed President's Cabinet this week at which I might have heard about it. So the fact that SPBAC hasn't been involved doesn't say much, one way or the other.

    Everything that needs to be said about SPBAC's role in the differential cuts has been said.

    As to whether we are pawns in someone else's game -- maybe so, but in chess pawns that make the right moves can change everything.

    Lynn Nadel