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Academic Senators question equity of budget cuts

Faculty in the College of Humanities and Social and Behavioral Sciences said they are being unfairly impacted by the $20 million budget deficit and confronted President George Ross at the Academic Senate meeting on Tuesday.

Academic Senators questioned Ross about budget details at the meeting April 18. While some expressed concern that certain colleges are receiving disproportional cuts, others accused Ross of evading responsibility for the budget shortfall. The president did not answer some questions, but continued to stress that the university prioritizes maintaining a strong financial base.

Senator David Smith of the Philosophy and Religion department said he is concerned that CHSBS is facing the hardest consequences at the university. He questioned if all colleges are receiving cuts by the same standard.

“The cut in my college is 9.4 percent,” Smith said. “Whereas the (student credit hour) projection is (decreased) about 5 percent. Other colleges experience a similar proportion in their cut, (while ours has) nearly doubled.”

Ross responded by saying he was unable to provide enrollment projections and cut percentages at the meeting. However, he encouraged senators to attend the Budget Deficit Forum where Joe Garrison, director of financial planning, will discuss the budget in more detail.

The Budget Deficit Forum is at 3:30 on Friday, April 21 in French Auditorium.

Smith stated in an email he is confident that Ross could have answered his question at the meeting.

“The reason he wouldn't answer, I suspect, is because the cuts to CHSBS are unfairly high,” he wrote is a follow up email to CM Life.

Senator Mark Freed of the English Language and Literatures department directly confronted Ross with complaints of how administrators are avoiding responsibility of the budget deficit. In search for accountability, he asked whether Ross believed the administration made decisions that were financially detrimental to the university.

“The faculty and (Academic Senate) are in charge of the curriculum,” Freed said. “That’s our job, we’re supposed to look after the curriculum. The administration is supposed to find the money to do it. You’re supposed to find the money to do what we think is academically necessary.”

Freed said Ross has implied that the college deans and departments are mostly responsible for the budget shortfall.

“Rather than turning its back on the colleges with the fallout, I think the (Academic Senate) would like to know — what’s your sense of responsibility for the situation we’re in?” Freed asked.

Because the university operates with the Responsibility Management Centered budget model, deans have greater authority regarding fiscal decisions. Ross said some responsibility can be attributed to lower levels of the administration.

“We made a conscious decision to go to a decentralized budget model,” Ross said. “We are so decentralized (that) I don’t make expenditure decisions in colleges. I don’t make expenditure decisions in divisions.”

Although Ross asserted he does not make budget decisions within the departments, he said that he and the Board of Trustees are ultimately responsible for the financial health of the university.  


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Editor-in-Chief Emma Dale is a junior from Grand Haven double majoring in journalism and political ...

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