Letter to the Editor: Response to Budget Article

Dear Editor,

The article on the update to the budget reductions was helpful in letting everyone know that the faculty is involved in the process.  However, because it lacks context (and did not seek to find out the context from any faculty member involved), it can be misleading, and judging from some of the responses online and in social media, it has been.

Four points should be made clear at the outset since these are so important and are glossed over in the article:

  1. There was never an assumption that each unit of the college would be evenly cut; in fact, the assumption all along was that this would not happen.
  2.  The budget is to be cut around 4%, and the suggestions for a 3% or 6% cut that each unit was tasked with was meant to generate ideas for budget reduction.
  3. The list generated by faculty was a “blue sky” document, and should be taken as such.
  4. Teaching students is the core of Rollins.

Now for some more detailed background: The administration called on each unit of the college to come up with plans to cut 3% and 6% of their budgets as a way to compare plans from each unit and choose the cuts that would amount to a total of around 4% for the whole college. In this process, the administration would not cut each unit evenly but having the two plans from each unit would help them weigh cuts across all the areas and pick and choose which ones made the most sense. Some areas might have 5% cut and some areas 2% — this was the assumption from the start.

The President asked the governing committees of each academic unit (A&S, CPS, Crummer) to participate in this process, making suggestions to their respective deans. Therefore, the Executive Committee of Arts and Sciences decided, in the spirit of inclusion, as well as thinking that “two heads are better than one,” to open the discussion to the entire faculty to make suggestions for cutting the budget and for bringing in more revenue. The Executive Committee asked the Finance and Service Committee (one of the standing committees) to solicit these ideas.

The Finance and Service Committee has representatives from the faculty, from staff, and from students. The committee decided that each of these groups should be involved in the process, with each group holding discussions. To prepare for a discussion among faculty, I solicited ideas from the faculty, and I simply listed them without evaluating or censoring them in the document the article refers to; these ideas were made without the faculty having much information about the budget.

In the spirit of inclusion, I continually supplied students with this list and consented to have students at our faculty colloquium, assuming that the list would be taken for what it was—a “blue sky” document in which no holds were barred, in which no idea was assumed to be correct (in fact, I knew that some information included was not accurate), but this would be a starting point for a discussion. The risk of openness is that some people may not fully understand the process, and I fear that many students may have misunderstood what this document was, and the article did not clarify this point, unfortunately.

My idea during the faculty colloquium was to use the time to have the faculty choose which ideas they thought were most important and practical so that these ideas could be further analyzed and the results be given to the administration. In actually, this did not happen since the faculty argued that they did not have enough information, particularly budgetary information, to make informed decisions on most of the ideas.

However, if one looks at the list, one sees that the faculty suggested ideas for budget reduction (and revenue generation) applying to all areas of the college. The article seems to suggest via an ambiguous quote (to an ambiguous question, one that I have seen in an email), that the faculty was trying to avoid cuts in its own area. In no way was there any suggestion to avoid cuts in the academic area. In fact, if one looks closely at several of the ideas in the list, there are some suggestions for dramatic cuts in the faculty. It is fair to say that the faculty feels that the core mission of Rollins is teaching students, and those things that directly affect this process should be retained, so that more cuts should come in areas that are outside of this core mission. But there will surely be cuts that affect the faculty.

For instance, personnel costs compose such a great sector of the budget that there is no way that there will not be personnel cuts in some areas as a result of these budget cuts. It is a legitimate question to ask if we should start cutting faculty positions, something that directly affects the core mission of the college while we don’t make cuts in other areas. The unfortunate truth is that there will probably be cuts in faculty, or those teaching students, because it is hard to cut 4% without making some of these hard decisions. But, it is legitimate for faculty to suggest other areas that the administration should look at first in making budget cuts, given the centrality of teaching (and wouldn’t faculty cuts affect students, too?).

At this point, I should emphasize that when there are budget cuts, people and programs are affected, and this is always produces a difficult and tense situation; you are dealing with peoples’ lives and pet programs. It might be possible to cut some things that are not needed or that might not be working, but generally, the dilemma presented is not a question of good versus bad (programs or people), but a question of what good things have to be cut and what other good things remain. Naturally, there will be disagreement about which good things should be cut, precisely because they are good. And it is natural that the faculty sees teaching students as the raison d’etre of a college, and that it argues that one should proceed with caution when thinking about cutting this area.

Shared governance is a tradition in good colleges; that is why I’m proud of the SGA for engaging in the discussion and making suggestions about things to be cut in areas that affect them. The staff will have a colloquium about this also. The faculty are actively engaged in this process—in fact, we have already recommended several ideas to the administration about cuts that affect us, and we will suggest more ideas that come out of our continuing discussions. We realize that there will necessarily be cuts in areas that affect us. I wish the beginning part of The Sandspur article had supplied more context for the list, and it had not contained an ambiguous quote that some people have interpreted in a way that puts the faculty in a bad light, as simply trying to avoid cuts that affect them.

In spite of what some may say, Rollins has a serious financial problem that needs to be addressed, not only for this year and for next year, but for several years to come. More things are going to have to be cut in the future unless more revenue is raised. This is probably only the beginning of the pain.

– Hoyt Edge
Professor of Philosophy
Chair of A&S Faculty Finances and Services Committee

Dr. Edge,
We featured this piece online as a midway between a previous article about budget issues and the future one we are working on about its final resolutions. We felt it was important to include the entire list of brainstormed ideas by the faculty seeing as though most had a direct impact on students, and students did not make the monetary decisions that resulted in the deficit.

We stated within the article that the list was compiled of ideas that were not guaranteed to happen and do not represent the views of the entire faculty. By no means would The Sandspur ever wish to incriminate the faculty in any way but instead wished for students to become informed about decisions that could possibly affect them further down the line in hopes of inspiring more involvement on their behalf.

– Jamie Lee Pizzi
Editor-in-Chief

 

The opinions on this page do not necessarily reflect those of The Sandspur, its staff or Rollins College.

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