Blaise Pascal, PenseĆ© 347: “Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapor, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this. All our dignity consists, then, in thought. By it we must elevate ourselves, and not by space and time which we cannot fill. Let us endeavor, then, to think well; this is the principle of morality.”

Friday, February 17, 2012

Budget Task Force, RIP

On February 16, 2012, at a forum in the Student Satellite Union, Provost Covino announced his response to the recommendations of the Budget Task Force. I breathed a sigh of relief when, in response to a question by Prof. David Engle, of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures, Covino made it crystal clear that the plan to merge the College of Arts & Humanities and the College of Social Science had been shelved. "Scrapped" is probably the better word; I don't believe we'll ever hear of it again.

I am not going to give a blow by blow presentation of this entire meeting. The Provost provided a link, via email, which provides a video presentation of his remarks:

Provost's Forum, February 16, 2012

After the Provost spoke, two questions were asked which are very pertinent to issues of the budget and to faculty consultation.

First, Dean Vida Samiaan, Dean of Arts & Humanities, asked whether the move of the Economics Department to the School of Business wasn't likely to cost money rather than save it. She did not get a definitive answer, so here's mine: yes, it will cost more money. The funding allocation within the School of Business is richer than with Social Science, and the Economics Dept. will be the beneficiary.

Second, Jacinta Amaral, of Modern and Classical Languages and Literatures, asked whether there was any faculty consultation involved in Provost Covino's decision to keep a carry forward amount, within Academic Affairs, of $6.5 million. I don't think she got a direct answer to that question. This decision may have been wise, but it appears to have been the Provost's decision alone. This raises the most important issue for me: where is faculty consultation?

For all its hours spent and all the consternation caused by its recommendations, the Budget Task Force accomplished nothing of budgetary significance. I'm sure the members of the Task Force did their best, but I bet even they would admit the futility of the exercise. The two big recommendations, the disbursement of the College of Science and Mathematics and the amalgamation of the Colleges of Arts and Humanities and Social Sciences, did not occur. Those mergers were supposed to save $500,000, but I'm doubtful. They would have severely wounded the culture of Fresno State and had a negative effect on donors. The Provost's decision not to follow the advice of the Task Force on these matters was correct.

The rest of the Task Force recommendations have no budgetary significance: Don't keep low enrolled classes. Don't keep courses in the catalog if you don't need them. These items are attended to by chairs and deans every semester.

Train department chairs about how important it is to not keep low-enrolled classes, etc.? Deans do this already. I hope such training sessions are not instituted. They will be a waste of faculty time.

So where do we go from here, as we face a $10.1 million budget gap in the coming year? This is the Academic Senate's opportunity to craft a consultation process, the core of which ought to the the University Budget Committee. This committee must be prepared to make deep vertical cuts everywhere it sees programs or institutes which are not central to the mission of the university. Our mission, above all,  is to teach students and to give them the kinds of educational experiences appropriate to their disciplines. Any program or institute not directly related to that mission should be ranked according to its importance in supporting effective teaching, and then painful decisions will have to be made.

No comments:

Post a Comment