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UA's $60M debt 'black hole' concerns faculty


By Wells Brambl
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, January 31, 2006
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The Faculty Senate stressed yesterday the need to find a solution to the university's substantial debt, which was loosely referred to as a $60 million "black hole."

"We're still dealing with the reality of the deficit," said Sen. Antonio Estrada. "Maybe we still have too many programs."

Estrada asked how much bigger the university's debt, termed the "black hole," could get before the university gets into "real trouble."

Two years ago, the debt was about $30 million, said Wanda H. Howell, chair of the senate.

"The black hole really got blacker about two years ago," Howell said.

In the faculty senate's discussion of the UA's budget proposal for 2007, senate members evaluated which items were most important to faculty.

Although the faculty will probably not get all the dollars needed to fund all of its programs completely, faculty members said the budget proposal includes $10 million for faculty, professional and staff retention.

Howell said she thinks Robert Shelton, named last week to succeed President Peter Likins, will look for funding through the expansion of endowments and through sales of intellectual property obtained through graduate programs and research.

"One of Shelton's primary goals is to increase revenue independent of legislation," Howell said.

Howell said she hoped that Shelton would find solutions to the UA's budget problems, adding that she thought the new president was the best candidate for the job.

UA governing bodies are currently working with the board of regents, the state legislature and Gov. Janet Napolitano to solve the budget dilemma, faculty members said.

Regarding problems with differential admission and tuition, Howell said she thought the root of the issue lies in the Arizona Board of Regents' policy.

"If the Arizona Board of Regents is not going to be able to come up with a pile of money to say 'Admit any student who wants to be a business major,' (then) their only alternative is to approve differential admission and differential tuition," Howell said.

Greg Fahey, associate vice president for government relations for the university, announced that House Bill 2661, which calls for a 2.5 percent increase in pay to state employees, passed the state senate on Jan. 25 and awaits the governor's signature.

This money, Fahey said, boils down to an extra $1,650 per university employee and will be distributed at the UA's discretion next fiscal year. A system and guidelines for distributing the money still have to be worked out, he said.

During the meeting, the senate proposed a revision of wording in the class catalog for double degree requirements and the creation of a doctorate of nursing practice.

The senate recommended that the Eller College's Department of Management and Policy be renamed the Department of Management and Organization. It also wanted agricultural economic and management to be changed to agribusiness economics and management.

The senate suggested that the "bachelor of science in natural resources" degree title become a standard bachelor of science degree.

All items on Monday's senate agenda won unanimous consent and now await final approval by the board of regents.

Provided that the regents give approval, all changes will go into effect for the fall 2006 semester.

The next Faculty Senate meeting will be at 3 p.m. on Feb. 6 in the James E. Roger College of Law building, Room 146.



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