Faculty fear cuts; tiers to come

By Lisa Schulz

Columbia President Warrick L. Carter has requested the Faculty Senate weigh in on the prioritization process and upcoming searches for the president, provost and vice president of Institutional Advancement positions.

Other discussion at the Feb. 24 Senate meeting held in the Alexandroff Campus Center, 600 S. Michigan Ave., revolved around possible budget cuts, the transparency of prioritization to students and raises for faculty members.

“There will be tears” as the prioritization process reaches its implementation stage, said Suzanne Blum Malley, associate professor in the English Department and member of the Academic Team, which assesses the educational impact of prioritization.

Some changes will be made immediately and others as late as 2018, she added.

Eric May, associate professor in the Fiction Writing department and a member of the Support and Operations team, reported on a Feb. 20 meeting between that team, the Academic Team, and Anne Foley, vice president of Planning and Compliance at which the group discussed a possible $24 million cut between fiscal years 2013-2018, realized through the prioritization process.

He said the college is “looking somehow to find” $15 million for fiscal year 2013.

“I asked how many jobs are we talking about. I did not get an answer,” May said. “There’s no way to get close to that kind of money without firing people. Whether or not the college is actually going to try to do this, this is what we were told. This has been disseminated to some chairs, and the college needs to know 
about it.”

Malley noted that she and other team members commented on using prioritization as a vehicle for budget cuts.

“There are many things that we need to do as an institution to be healthy 20 years from now that are going to cost money now so that we can be better positioned in the future,” Malley said. “There’s really nothing about this process that is inherently cost-saving in the immediate, which is why it cannot be tied to the 2013 budget.”

Malley said budgeting has not been a concern of the Academic team. “In my letter from Dr. Carter, it said nothing about being his ax woman.”

“The recommendations coming from the teams are structural and pedagogical and what makes sense for students,” she said.

The financial picture given at that meeting was that Columbia will remain a tuition-driven institution, Malley added.

Lack of information on fundraising targets was another subject of Senate concern.

“Why aren’t we being told how much of that money that’s being targeted is actually for the classroom and not for a sign on the Robert Johnson Publishing Building?” asked Ron Falzone, associate professor in the Film and Video Department.

Barbara Calabrese, Radio Department chair, expressed concern for the “mixed messages” sent to the students, who assumed recommendations were final and pointed out that one prospective student decided against applying to Columbia on the assumption that a program was being eliminated.

Even though the process emphasizes transparency, she suggested faculty members avoid discussing prioritization with students to prevent disseminating

incorrect information.

Malley said the Academic Team will be sending its recommendations regarding prioritization to the three deans and Louise Love, interim provost and vice president of Academic Affairs. Love’s recommendations will be released Feb. 28 and her listening forum is scheduled for March 5, according to Malley. Revised recommendations will be sent to Carter March 19 and then to the Board of Trustees.

Pegeen Reichert-Powell, Faculty Senate president and assistant professor in the English Department, said she met with Carter on Feb. 20 concerning the search for provost. She said he considered extending Love’s position to 2014, delaying the search for a provost until after the search for a new president and a new vice president for Institutional Advancement had been concluded.

According to Reichert-Powell, Carter emphasized if faculty believe the delay is detrimental to the long-term health of the institution, the search will proceed in the fall. She said Carter worries about the pool of candidates for provost, and Love is interested in remaining as provost until 2014.

An email statement from Love announced that faculty who are at the lowest salary ranges will get a raise in response to the Executive Committee’s request to raise the floor on three salary bands, Reichert-Powell said.

The Senate considered inviting Carter to its next meeting when its votes would be discussed but decided against it.

“It would be awkward asking him difficult questions to his face,” said Hyunjung Bae, assistant professor in the Marketing Communication Department.