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By Susan Carroll
Arizona Daily Wildcat
May 4, 1998

Likins sorry 'for financial squeeze'

UA President Peter Likins Friday used a speech to Journalism Department honorees to blame higher education's financial squeeze for the "unnecessarily confrontational war" that nearly killed the department three years ago.

"I know some of you have been through some rough years," Likins said, scanning a sea of about 200 faces in the Union Club of the Memorial Student Union for the department's 32nd annual awards banquet. "Someone has to say, and I want to say - I'm sorry about that."

Likins said the budget stresses that universities have faced throughout this decade are rooted in a public and political turn against higher education. The Journalism Department, which was nearly axed by budget cuts in 1995, was caught in the crossfire as the UA adjusted to flagging support from the Arizona Legislature and taxpayers, Likins said.

"There are people in this legislature who seem to think of the university as another government agency," Likins said. "There's a perception that universities are more bureaucrats at the public trough."

Likins apologized personally for the difficulties with the program, but blamed a larger power for the jeopardizing its existence.

"It is not a battle won or lost, but part of a process unfolding in higher education," he said.

Likins said the public's diminished respect and admiration for higher education has put universities in an awkward position.

"In the '90s it all began to shrivel away, and it was deeply upsetting," Likins said.

Upset or not, administrators' reactions were to cut programs, adopting the "close the plant" attitude of big business, Likins said.

"We're just not made of the same stuff (as big business)," he said.

Likins pushed creativity and flexibility to adapt to financial shortcomings.

"We damn well must adjust to these changes - they're not over," he said. "We're going to win the game. We're going to have to get past the victim complex and stop sitting back and whining."

Still, Likins criticized state leaders for failing to spend enough money on students.

"The state has no future if we fail to invest in the educational enterprise," Likins said.

Likins tried to lay to rest any lingering animosity for the cuts.

"I hope there is enough progress toward the healing of wounds in this place," he said.

Journalism Department Head Jim Patten agreed it was time to move on and said the program is regaining strength.

"What he said was perfect," Patten said of Likins' speech.

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