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Provost to divvy faculty salaries

By Shelley Shelton
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday September 30, 2003

For years, legislative budget cuts have forced administrators to give deans and department heads more control over available faculty salary money, but now administrators are thinking of taking that control back.

When faculty members leave, their salary money is sent to the deans of their respective colleges, who then let their department heads vie for the money before the dean decides into which department to sweep it.

President Peter Likins and Provost George Davis want to change that in order to let the provost decide which department needs the money most.

"We are very serious about creating a mechanism for the university to reallocate some dollars across colleges," Davis said. "It's really no different than what the deans of the colleges absolutely depend on."

Some of the deans said they were uncertain what a loss of control could mean for their colleges but said they understand the basic need for centralization of funds.

"You have to have flexibility and be able to rethink what you're doing," said Mark Zupan, dean of the Eller College of Business and Public Administration.

He said he is not sure how such a change would affect the Eller college.

"It could go either way, but until you see how it actually plays out, it's hard to predict," he said.

Joaquin Ruiz, dean of the College of Science, said he is in favor of the reallocation plan, with some caveats.

"My only concern is that the reason the university runs as well is because deans can move quickly," he said. "I hope the university doesn't lose by centralizing too much money."

Some opportunities are lost if money can't be moved quickly, he said.

Tom Baldwin, head of the biochemistry department, said he is concerned about the ideas administrators are floating around.

"That money that is in vacant-money salary lines is the reason we can survive from year to year," Baldwin said.

If a centralized plan goes through, "We're dead," he said. "That money allows us to fund things on a temporary basis. For example, every fall, we need to open additional sections of courses."

However, if the administration makes a clear path for a department to get the money back, Baldwin said he could accept the idea of money being returned to the provost, he said.

"I could deal with that. But if they take the money and run, then I cannot understand," he said.

Davis said the administration wants to devise a set of criteria that clearly sets out what counts as a priority for reallocated money.

He said the idea is not based on a desire to create optimum-sized colleges but rather on a need to increase faculty diversity, improve student-teacher ratios, increase research opportunities, and address instructional needs where resources appear to be diminished.

Likins said a reallocation system like this is not uncommon.

"Most universities, most of the time and this university in the past did it that way," he said.

Before 1992, the individual colleges retained the money necessary to hire a replacement faculty member, and the difference between the new person's salary and that of the predecessor went to the provost for reallocation, Davis said.

Likins said things changed because state budget cuts started to become so severe that the provost was having difficulty discerning where to make cuts.

Instead, he began allowing the deans to make those decisions, and in so doing, the deans decided where all the vacancy money should go.

The change was meant to be a temporary solution to what was assumed to be a temporary problem, but state budget cuts have continued and have only become worse in the time since then, Likins said.

Returning to some way of centralizing the money "is not an indicator that things are better. It's an indicator that they are not going to get better," Likins said.

For now and at least until the end of the school year, the university is continuing to follow the decentralized plan in place, because any ideas about a new plan are still in such preliminary stages, Davis said.

"At this point, we're having a conversation. We're trying to sensitize people to the need for change," Likins said.

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