CFA Responds to Budget Cutbacks in LAS

The Campus Strategic Plan lists as one of its most important goals “to strengthen the visibility and impact of the arts and the humanities.” This goal cannot be met by imposing severe cuts on the departments of the College of LAS. We therefore ask Dean Ross to explain to LAS faculty why the College wants departments to return an average of 5% of their budgets.

It is true that state appropriations (12% of our $2 billion budget in FY15) have dropped over the past decade. They will almost certainly drop again in the new FY15-16 state budget once it is passed. But increases in our tuition revenue (33% of our budget) have more than made up for these drops. In fact, the University of Illinois system has been consistently amassing surpluses over the past decade (now $1.5 billion).

While we do need to prepare for future expenditures on deferred maintenance costs, and while the state may impose the additional burden of pension contributions, we are not now in financial crisis. We can meet our present budgetary expenditures and we can meet future needs.

If the university is in fundamentally good fiscal shape, why did the Dean of LAS tell the EOs on November 6 that the College was running deficits that need to be made up this year? Why the sense of urgency? Why undermine one of the goals of the Campus Strategic Plan?

According to information provided by the Division of Management Information, the college of LAS has 25 departments running budget deficits in 2015, and the goal for 2016 is to reduce this to 20 departments with budget deficits. But it also shows that the total budget deficit of the College of LAS is below the goal for FY16. Why are we departing from the goals of our Campus Strategic Plan?

The lack of budget transparency has been a serious problem in the past. CFA calls upon Dean Ross to convene a special All College Faculty Meeting devoted to the budget, at which faculty members can ask questions and get them answered, about the financial state of the college and the campus, as well as the justification for large mid-year cuts.