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Guest Commentary: New changes will help students in the long run

George Davis
University provost
By George H. Davis
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday January 15, 2003

When Pete Likins gave his inaugural address in 1997, I listened to his words carefully as he described the "whitewater" we would all one day experience. He urged us to prepare. He was aware that severe challenges would attend this institution's quest to continuously improve.

In July 2000, I became provost. Immediately I, too, came to see riffles of whitewater downstream. Then we were in it. Between July 2001 and today, the permanent cuts in our operating budgets have removed $33.4 million from academic affairs and $12.9 million from business affairs, campus life, advancement, and the office of the president. Colleges have had to cut faculty positions, staff positions, support for students, courses and classes, seats, operations support, computer support, travel support, capital equipment support, graduate student support and support for outreach activities.

The quality of the student experience on this campus is importantly tied to the quality of the faculty. So, too, is our research university's capacity to enrich economic development and the quality of life. Thus, one of the most alarming concerns of our budget situation is the challenge of faculty retention.

Many other states unambiguously recognize that the foundation for the research university's ability to serve its students and communities is solid high-quality faculty and programs, sprinkled with peaks of enormous brilliance from people. When there is uncertainty about the commitment of Arizona state leadership to higher education, when there are cuts of such magnitude that goals and strategies are eroded before they lift off, when the salaries and support decline to third and fourth quartiles in comparison with peer institutions, then faculty are attracted to other opportunities and may choose to leave.

Changing Directions and Focused Excellence are responses to the crisis. The series of financial planning bulletins now underway represents a determined effort to eliminate, merge, reconstruct, and innovate in ways that improve our capacity to excel in what they do and to hold faculty and students here. financial planning bulletin number 20 was issued

yesterday, and it appears today in the Arizona Daily Wildcat in its full form. In many ways its contents are jarring.

The president and I are requiring certain vice presidents and deans to craft formal reorganization proposals for elimination of some 16 programs.

More information will be in hand before final conclusions are reached. In particular, the proposals will contain alternatives considered; a timetable for action; an assessment of the impact on research and instructional programs; a list of the potentially affected faculty members; a description of the impact on affected faculty members, staff and appointed personnel; a review of the types of course and curricular changes that might be necessary; and a preliminary analysis of the costs and of the benefits of the proposed reorganization. There will be a call for reorganization proposals in Financial Planning Bulletins number 21 and 22 as well, and these relate to program mergers and program reconstructions.

Some proposals will require a thorough vetting by Faculty Senate and the Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee, with recommendations and observations from both groups coming to the president. The ASUA and GPSC presidents or their designees will represent students on the constituted advisery committees. All proposals will be addressed in accord with university and Arizona Board of Regents policies and university principles of shared governance. Final presidential conclusions will be taken to ABOR for approval.

One of the rebuttals that a provost or president at any university will hear when attempting to eliminate or merge programs is that too few dollars will be captured, and captured too slowly, in relation to turmoil and human costs. We feel that whatever dollars come from reorganization will help us get through the whitewater, but mainly, we are attempting to create change that will help make this place better.

We sincerely believe that, over the long term, students will have a smoother journey.


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