Archive for May 20th, 2008

Tampa Tribune article on budget cutting

Tuesday, May 20th, 2008

This morning in the Tampa Tribune, Adam Emerson’s story USF Union Seeks Budget Cut Delay appeared. For the most part, it represented faculty concerns well in terms of faculty’s wanting there to be more deliberation about reorganization and budget cuts, and I have two short comments.

First, this story has the very first response of the university to faculty questions about the origins of the unrestricted-assets growth, in terms of VP Michael Hoad’s responses to Emerson’s questions. I don’t understand Hoad’s apparent answer, but it’s a first step in the right direction, and there needs to be much more openness about the assets. (Emerson wrote, “For example, the budgets for auxiliary services, such as alumni and athletic associations, originate in this ‘unrestricted’ classification,” which doesn’t make sense since unrestricted assets represent the growth of unspent funds, not operating expenses, and the $240 million was in the university itself, not the auxiliary units, which had $88 million in unrestricted assets at the end of last June.)

Second, Emerson made a leap between the discussion of the assets and the chapter’s resolution asking for a delay in reorganization. In talking with me over the phone, he asked if there was a link between Friday’s resolution and the discussion about the $240 million in unrestricted assets. I told him that was a logical connection, but that that hadn’t been explicit in the discussion on the motion. I had been reading the motion to be parallel to the letter the majority of CAS chairs sent the provost some weeks ago, asking that the discussion of reorganization be slowed down and separated from budget cuts; if there was a link between the two issues, it was more likely to be the fact that unrestricted assets should give USF some maneuvering room. But that’s a relatively minor quibble.

What is true in the story is that USF faces choices about what to do with the budget cuts given the unrestricted assets. The Board of Trustees can ignore the existence of the unrestricted assets and cut far into academic programs. The trustees can ignore the existence of budget cuts and absorb all of the appropriations gap through unrestricted assets. Or the trustees can recognize that we have both a long-term change in what the state is appropriating AND a large cushion that we can use to make the change much smoother.