UA Faculty Senate upset over sudden budget cuts

By Joe Ferguson
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 2, 2004

Several faculty members criticized UA administrators for lack of notice regarding the 2 percent across-the-board budget cuts during yesterday's Faculty Senate meeting.

The Committee of Eleven, a group of elected faculty members, released a three-page report in July 2004 outlining its concerns about the budget cuts.

The Committee of Eleven speaks for the general faculty and its main purpose is to look at problems concerning the faculty and the university.

J.D. Garcia, chairman for the Committee of Eleven, said while the cuts were devastating, the committee wants to ensure there would be no more "June surprises." The cuts were announced last June, and affected all academic and non-academic university departments and programs.

"Our primary concern was for the president and the provost to set up mechanisms so it will not re-occur," Garcia said.

Garcia, a physics professor, said his department will need to trim $73,000 from its budget to comply with the 2 percent cuts.

"Were I to do the easy thing, 10 graduate teaching assistants would be removed," Garcia said.

Garcia said without those teaching assistants, 30 physics lab classes would be cancelled.

"Half the people waiting to take physics labs would have been turned away," he said.

Garcia said the physics department has not made any decisions on how to deal with the budget cuts.

"If we were told in March, it would have been much easier," Garcia said. "It is important to set up mechanisms to protect us from these surprises."

Garcia said the committee received a written response to its report from President Peter Likins and Provost George Davis in August. But Garcia said it was more of an apology rather than a specific explanation of why the UA had to make these cuts with almost no warning.

Garcia said in the letter, the president and provost apologized for not letting faculty members know sooner about the cuts.

Likins agreed the cuts were unexpected.

"On a Monday, we were looking at one and a half percent conditional cuts," Likins said. "By the end of the week, we had permanent 2 percent cuts."

Likins said he waited too long to announce the cuts, saying his administration was looking into alternatives to budget cuts.

Likins announced at the Faculty Senate meeting yesterday the UA might have to adjust next year's budget for an unexpected rise in retirement benefits for UA employees.

He said he was recently told by state officials of a drastic increase in the cost of retirement benefits for state workers. The estimated increase to pay for retired UA employees is $6.9 million.

Likins told the Faculty Senate he was not sure whether the state of Arizona would cover the amount.

Likins also announced during the meeting he would not sign a new shared governance agreement, dictating how faculty and administration participate in significant decisions about the UA operations. He said there was a potential conflict with an Arizona Revised Statute.

Likins said he thought a state statute that defines the power of the Arizona Board of Regents and the power they give him might conflict with his ability in sharing governing powers with the Faculty Senate.

Likins said he wanted to discuss the matter with the board of regents before signing any shared governance agreement.

"Inevitably there is a lack of clarity in the Arizona Revised Statute," Likins said.

Likins said the statute gives him the power to act alone when there is a "vital interest" to the UA. He said that phrase could interfere with a shared governance agreement.

In July 2003, the appointment of Patti Ota to vice president for enrollment management and Edith Auslander to the Vice President and Senior Associate to the President was deemed a "vital interest" by Likins, without the co-operation of the faculty senate.

Likins said he wanted an alternate shared governance agreement drafted that would work around the conflict.

The Faculty Senate voted to send the current draft of the agreement back to the sub-committee for further revisions.