By Sarah Mayhew
Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA Communication graduate student Cindy White alleges that she was verbally attacked by an administrator over a press release meant to convince the university to leave her program, threatened with elimination, intact.
White said Michael Cusanovich, University of Arizona research vice president, called and told her that he would tell people she lied in the release.
"He said, 'If anyone asks me, I'll have to say that you fabricated these figures,'" White said. Cusanovich complained about the amount of grant money claimed in the release for this fiscal year.
"It doesn't make sense that he's attacking me," she said, adding that she thought calling up a student to haggle over a press release was "inappropriate" for an administrator.
Cusanovich tells a different story.
"She didn't tell me she was a student when I called," he said. White's name and phone number were listed on the release without mentioning her position in the Communication department.
The $4.5 million in grant money claimed included the total amount awarded to members of the department this year, not just the money used in research projects, Cusanovich said.
He called the numbers "misleading," saying that it appeared that the department brought millions of dollars to the university in one year, rather than over a period of years, which would be more accurate.
"It's not negative at all," Cusanovich said of his phone call. "It would be normal to call whoever's on a press release to straighten things out," he said.
Disagreements like this one among administrators and students and faculty have surfaced throughout the university, especially this year with dozens of departments threatened with elimination or reduction.
Many faculty and students say that after discussions with some administrators, they feel those in charge have personal vendettas against specific departments targeted in this year's program cut and reduction recommendations.
After a year of protests against program cuts and reduction recommendations, relations between students, faculty and administrators this spring have erupted into several yelling matches over early proposals to reduce or eliminate more than 20 programs.
Now, students and faculty seem to be pitted against administrators in what many are calling a hostile standoff.
After years of budget shortfalls
and across-the-board budget cuts, the Arizona Board of Regents ordered the three state universities two years ago to prioritize academic and non-academic programs. So, while some programs would be lost, the entire university would not suffer.
UA President Manuel T. Pacheco formed the Program for the Assessment of Institutional Priorities to conduct the first leg of this process.
The report, released last May, rated each department and program on whether it was "central to the mission of the university."
Then in June, Provost Paul Sypherd introduced the 1993-94 fiscal year as "the year from hell" because of a $10 million budget shortfall to the university and said that faculty and staff could expect program cuts this year.
While high-level administrators lauded the new budgeting process for being more fair than across-the-board cuts hurting all programs, faculty members and some deans said the university was worse off than before.
Faculty Chairman J.D. Garcia, a physics professor, said because Pacheco left the program eliminations up to individuals within the administration, budget decisions still followed personal agendas.
Vivian Juan, former assistant dean of Native American Affairs and director of the Native American Cultural Resources Center, quit after Saundra Lawson Taylor, vice president for student affairs, eliminated the Office of Minority Student Affairs last summer.
Juan; Debi Nalwood, Native American Cultural Resources Center coordinator; Jesse Hargrove, African American Student Affairs assistant dean; and many students said that cutting the minority affairs office showed a lack of commitment to students on the part of UA administration.
The programs under OMSA still remain intact, distributed to the offices of Enrollment Management, Health and Wellness, Dean of Students, Residence Life and the Student Union.
Also, the first round of program cut recommendations was released last July, targeting the Statistics department Ä which received a good report from PAIP but a "does not meet criteria" rating because it has been understaffed and underfunded for the four years it has existed. Half of the American Sign Language classes were cut despite a student protest on the Mall and a silent protest in Sypherd's office last spring.
Near the end of the summer, Sypherd reported that large numbers of "demoralized" faculty were beginning to leave or look for jobs elsewhere.
In June, Pacheco said programs
receiving positive ratings in the PAIP report probably would not be reviewed further.
However, the second review process includes a recommendation to cut the Near Eastern Studies graduate program, despite a PAIP rating of "exceeds criteria" for the department. The Statistics department received word from Sypherd's office that the program should be phased out despite the PAIP recommendation to increase funding and allow the department to hire more faculty.
Reports recommending the elimination or reduction of more than 20 programs by the Faculty of Social and Behavioral Sciences' Strategic Planning Committee and Sypherd's Strategic Planning and Budget Advisory Committee released in early April were met by pleas from outraged faculty and students to find other ways to cut expenses.
And while Holly Martin Smith, dean of Social and Behavioral Sciences, said her committee's report is not ready to go to Sypherd's office, many of the two committees' recommendations were similar.
Both committees recommended cutting the Journalism department and the Communication graduate program, and reducing the History and Political Science graduate programs.
Students and faculty widely complain about being left out of the process, finding out about the potential fate of their departments only after reading about the reports in the morning newspapers.
Journalism department head Jim Patten said he was called before a subcommittee of Smith's planning committee last semester, but was unaware that he was only meeting with part of the group until after the report was released in April.
When the report was released, Patten said he was surprised by the outcome.
"I can tell you that my first reaction was shock, my second reaction was anger," he said.
William Farr, head of the Nuclear and Energy Engineering department, said he knew nothing about the possibility of a cut until the afternoon before he was scheduled to give a presentation to Sypherd's committee on behalf of the program.
Students also have been outraged over what they call the secretive way the committees conducted their reviews.
"They've never asked the students whether we thought (the department) was central," said Michael Voloudakis, a communication senior and Radiation Control office assistant.
Sypherd, Pacheco and Smith all say that it is too early in the process for anyone to be left out.
"I'm getting weary of responding to this," Sypherd said. "No one has been left out of the process."
He said for the two committees to get access to much of the data used for the preliminary reports, they had to work secretly, but now the process is open to the public.
"Now is the time for feedback," Sypherd said, adding that the first two committee documents were incomplete and "very preliminary."
Smith and Sypherd both promised to meet with faculty and students who want to discuss the recommendations.
But those who have met with the administrators so far have said that their ideas and comments fell on deaf ears.
"I think that they (administrators) are getting really defensive," Voloudakis said.
Israel Ramirez, a UA law student and journalism graduate, said he spoke with Smith about the future of the Journalism department.
"She seemed like she's already made up her mind," Ramirez said.
After Norma Greer, a journalism sophomore and wife of journalism associate professor William Greer, saw Sypherd at an early April press conference held by the Journalism, Communication and Near Eastern Studies departments, she felt he was unreceptive to what the faculty and students had to say.
"I got the impression he already had his mind made up," Greer said.
Smith responded that the press conference was a poor way to try to influence the planning committee.
"The press conference was not the way to bring up information," Smith said.
But those who have tried to fight budget and program cuts since last summer said these administrative responses are nothing new.
Statistics department head Yashaswini Mittal said she made appointments to meet with Sypherd and Martha Gilliland, interim vice provost for academic affairs, to plead her case. Neither seemed interested, she said.
"I would not call that asking for my input," Mittal said.
And Jason Wong, an undergraduate senator who has protested the OMSA elimination since last July, said high-level administrators in charge of making the budget decisions only will listen to students when they have to, especially after a few unflattering articles in the local newspapers.
"I don't think the administration is listening to students," Wong said. "They never put their constituents in first place."
Still, Farr, who has not yet met individually with any administrators, said he hopes the process is what Sypherd and Pacheco have promised.
"We're certainly going to proceed on the basis that their minds are not made up," Farr said.
Pacheco said it does not surprise him that those affected by the cuts are looking to see whether administrators are on their side.
And Smith said now that the department members and students have presented new information to her and to the committee, revisions will be made to the first report. But she said she could not say whether those changes would reverse any of the committee recommendations.
Still, she said, "The committee is trying to be nonadversarial."
At least one department head disagrees.
About two weeks ago, William Crano, Communication department head, left a committee hearing in a huff after an unnamed committee member called Crano a "liar."
Crano said reports that he threw a chair before he left were exaggerated,
but he did agree that he left the meeting incensed. "Frankly, by that time I'd had enough of the committee," Crano said.
Committee members could not be reached for comment about the incident.
At an earlier hearing, Cusanovich said the situation need not be adversarial, but his comment was met with anger from faculty and students.
"For the vice president to say that this need not be an adversarial affair is a joke," said Communication Professor H. Michael Burgoon, adding that so far the process has been rife with "ill-will and tension."
Besides being angry over the process itself, students and faculty also fault the committee reports for inaccurate data and illogical reasoning.
"We thought that the rationale Ä such as it was Ä was a very flimsy rationale," Farr said.
Sypherd's committee reported that the Nuclear Engineering program should be scrapped because it is a small department with no market for its graduates.
While Farr did not dispute the department's size, housing 90 students this year, he took exception to the lack-of-jobs rationale.
Farr estimated that 92 percent of the department's graduates in the last five years either have jobs or are attending graduate school.
And journalism students and faculty said that they disagreed with the assessment that the department should be cut because only 30 percent of its graduates get jobs with newspapers.
Many of the department's graduates get work in public relations, law and other areas where writing and communication skills are important, Patten said.
While Near Eastern Studies faculty decided to speak as a group, they released a response paper to fight the potential elimination of its graduate program.
"The report is full of half-truths, outright errors, and blatant contradictions," the draft paper states. "The underlying process was marked by muddled educational philosophy, bureaucratic bungling, and implicit deception in many cases."
tudents say deception by ad-
ministrators is nothing new and neither are hard feelings over budget cuts.
Wong said that because students are unaware of how UA administrative politics work, there is little students can do to fight administration decisions.
And Ramirez said that hostility between students and administrators has existed for years.
"I just think it's really coming to a head," Ramirez said.
Both students and faculty said that they felt betrayed by the administration over the recommendations and the way that the situation has been handled.
Mittal was brought to the UA four years ago to set up the Statistics department on a limited budget, never receiving enough money to hire the new faculty she was originally promised, she said.
And now that the department has begun to receive national recognition, she said, it will be cut.
"Overall, this is definitely a betrayal," Mittal said.
But Sypherd, Smith and Pacheco all agree that it is too early in the process to call anything a betrayal.
In the meantime, neither administrators nor the regents who ordered the process in the first place will say whether they approve of the proposed cuts.
Pacheco said that it is too premature to discuss.
Any program cuts that eliminate tenured faculty need to be approved by the Arizona Board of Regents.
Regent Hank Amos, a UA graduate, and Regent Art Chapa also said it was too early.
"Your first draft is nothing like what you turn in to your professor," Amos said.
But he also said, "I tend to agree with our president and provost." Read Next Article