By Mika Mandelbaum
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Thursday, November 3, 2005
President Peter Likins said he is still working hard to carry out a plan for the UA to be more financially sound in the wake of massive state budget cuts, and that he won’t fall trap to becoming a lame duck.
Although Likins and several vice presidents are retiring this year, administrators said they don’t think it will cause a period of slowed progress at a time when the UA is still trying to integrate a plan to manage financial cuts.
“I recognize there’s a great potential for a lame duck period, but we can’t buy into that,” said Provost George Davis. “There’s so much more to be done.”
Likins agreed and said he does not foresee a lame duck period taking place.
“My planned retirement at age 70 has been known by the public for years, and I have never felt like a lame duck,” Likins said. “Indeed, knowing my personal finish line has helped me to maintain the discipline required to assure a smooth handoff to my successor.”
Davis said it would be damaging to lose momentum, and the administration must continue to work hard to prepare the university for the presidential transition.
“I don’t want the new president to come in and think we’ve been asleep for the past year,” Davis said. “I can’t imagine anything worse than that.”
The incoming president potentially faces financial problems similar to those that Likins faced because state funding for public universities continues to decline.
But if the new president comes from another school, he or she should not be unfamiliar with this issue because it is happening almost everywhere, said Mark Smith, head of the department of chemistry.
“(The new president) is not facing problems that don’t exist at all other state universities,” Smith said.
But the way the situation will be handled could be different from the way Likins handled it. The incoming president will have the authority to come in and completely change the way the university runs, including whether to continue the Focused Excellence initiative, Davis said.
“If so, the faculty and department heads will be all ears,” Davis said. “There’s no way they’re going to tell the new president that he or she is tied to Focused Excellence.”
Whether or not the new president will decide to change the university’s plan is unknown, but Likins expressed confidence in his successor.
“Meeting the challenges of sound financial management is an important part of the job for any university president, and my successor will accept that responsibility as I have,” Likins said.
In the end, it is important to realize there are other issues for the future president to deal with besides the university finances, said Alfred Kaszniak, head of the department of psychology.
“One will hope that the new president isn’t so hamstrung so the financial situation doesn’t completely determine everything that happens here,” Kaszniak said. “How does the new president step into a situation like that with some anticipation of being able to make new initiatives to be able to do things in a way that will move the university forward?”