06/29/20 Consulting on Budget Cuts

When President Wilson dictated that there should be plans developed to meet possible revenue shortfalls of five percent and ten percent, it seemed to be a prudent measure to take. Unfortunately, the devil is in the details. As the Deans and other administrators got their orders, a number of them executed a matador’s veronica and let the bull pass by them and impale the units below them. There are over 80 departments in the University and many other units, some small and some very large. In many cases, even the smallest of these units were charged with coming up with recommendations for cuts at the five and ten percent levels for each unit.

The budgets of these lower units have little fat. Mostly their budgets are taken up with payroll expenditures over which they have minimal control. Part-time budgets are flexible, but it is often an exercise in self-destruction to offer to cut them. The dollars spent on part-time faculty are the best return on investment in the budget. These faculty members generate many times more in tuition revenue than it costs to pay them. The same can be said of Lecturers. They constitute 12% of the faculty, but teach large numbers of students who pay tuition for the many credit hours they generate.

Yet the departments are pushed by circumstance to offer up cuts in part-time faculty and term-contract faculty members, chiefly Lecturers. Telephone budgets have already been cut to the bone. Cutting payments for copier paper and paper clips are not likely to help much in reaching the announced budget goals. The role of Academic Staff is not as deeply appreciated as they should be. The key functions of advising, counseling, scheduling and many other activities are not as likely to be represented on unit budget committees as are other academic activities.

Departmental and College and School budget advisory committees should not hesitate to push back and ask that they be advised of the Dean’s budget priorities and what the cuts are at the Dean’s Office level. Sources for cuts are such things as salary savings in departments from retirements. But, these positions are under the control of the Deans, not the departments. Deans routinely take control of retirement positions as soon as the retirement occurs. When the Dean does not allow a department to replace a retiring faculty member, it is a cut that must be absorbed by a department that must accommodate its program offerings accordingly.

What are departmental committees to do when the demand for the five and ten percent budget cut goals are pushed down to the lowest unit level? They can be put into the position of recommending the cutting of departmental programs where there are only one or two faculty members in them. Or, they can be pushed into recommending that Lecturers or non-tenure-track term faculty be non-renewed. There should be resistance at the departmental level to this.

Program discontinuance is covered under Article X of the Collective Bargaining Contract. If your Dean (or your chair) asks for a recommendation to drop a particular program, you can refer them to that Article. It is worthwhile for you to review Article X for information. The discontinuance of a program is a difficult and complicated process in which the department gets a chance to defend its preservation.

As you know, the Union is presently in negotiations with the Administration over the impact of the present crisis on the members of our bargaining unit. The first meeting of the two sides took place June 26th. It was primarily an organizational meeting and it went well. We will keep you informed about the progress of these talks.




Charles J. ParrishPresident, AAUP-AFT, Local 6075, WSU ChapterVice President-at-Large, AFT MichiganPresident, AAUP Michigan ConferenceMember-at-Large, National Council, AAUP5057 Woodward Avenue, Suite 3301Detroit, MI 48202313.577.1750