University should look back on this year and learn for next year

As the 2009-10 academic year comes to an end, it is important to both look back at the last year and forward to the next.

The leaders at this university need to take stock of the successes they have had and build off of them and examine the mistakes they have made and learn from them.

For one, the approach the university has taken toward its budget has been prudent and effective. By the Feb. 23 budget forum, the Senior Staff Budget Advisory Group announced $2.1 million in planned reductions in just four categories, including deferred maintenance and the CMU 2010 Vision Plan. Unneeded expenditures are being cut, whereas essential programs are getting off easy.

University President George Ross and the SSBAG need to continue to look intelligently at which areas of the budget are excessive or not essential, while preserving important programs and maintaining and hopefully bolstering CMU’s quality of education.

With Ross in place as president and Provost Gary Shapiro promoted permanently to the position, CMU should continue to look within the university to fill a few of the numerous positions still held by interims.

Ross, the former vice president of Finance and Administrative Services, and Shapiro, former dean of the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences, have been effective and valuable leaders before being hired to their current positions. They also have the advantage of knowing the university and the community prior to being hired, which lowered the learning curve for their new jobs and provides an increased initial effectiveness versus somebody who would have to be acclimated to both the job and the environment.

Although this is not always advantageous, and bringing new people and ideas into the university also has its value, in-house hiring should be a goal when looking to fill major positions such as the deans of the College of Business and Administration, College of Education and Human Services and Shapiro’s former post in the CHSBS.

One hope for both the administration and the Board of Trustees is to maintain a level of openness in their operations. The last few years have seen major decisions for the university, such as the creation of a medical college and the hiring of Ross, made with no prior announcement or public discourse.

Ross and company can be commended for the open forums they have held regarding the university budget. With any hope, these forums will continue as the budget takes form, and hopefully Ross will hold more presidential forums as well — something his predecessor, Michael Rao, ceased doing in later years. Such public discourse is important in keeping this university running with the interest of the students and the public in mind.