Early enrollment numbers suggest deeper cuts on the horizon

By Lauren Kostiuk, Campus Reporter

The college is facing another round of budget cuts for the 2015–2016 fiscal year, as early enrollment numbers suggest Columbia is “way off” its projected fall enrollment, said Stan Wearden, senior vice president and provost at the Sept. 11 Faculty Senate meeting.

“We either have the money or we don’t, and we have to make those adjustments accordingly,” Wearden said.

Although adjustments to the FY16 budget are coming, Wearden said the severity of them will depend on where enrollment figures fall when finalized.

“The sooner we can get accurate enrollment data and therefore accurate budget data, the more we can engage other people in [conversations]. I want that to happen,” Wearden said. “I hate having to do things like this. It drives me crazy.”

According to faculty notes obtained from the Aug. 19 all-faculty forum, President and CEO Kwang-Wu Kim told attendees that last spring the college budgeted for 9,333 students, but the college may not reach that number and could potentially be down as many as 500 students. The rolling count last week, as published by the college, is not ready to be made public yet.

Bruce Sheridan, chair of the Cinema Art + Science Department, said the college deans alerted chairs of the potential cuts on Aug. 31, instructing them to complete revised budgets to prepare for potential cuts.

“My feeling is that we are not being rushed on it,” Sheridan said. “It is a short period of time to work on it, but [now we are] prepared for what the final reality [will be].”

This is not the first round of cuts made to the 2015–2016 budget. As reported March 2 by The Chronicle, the college took a new approach to the budgeting process this year, setting firm targets to cut collegewide spending.

However, the school has previously advised the faculty about the possibility of further budget changes. As reported May 11 by The Chronicle, Michelle Gates, CFO and vice president of Business Affairs, explained at the May 8 Faculty Senate meeting that the budget would be revisited in the Fall 2015 Semester for adjustments based on the final enrollment numbers.

Sheridan said in his department, no academic concentration makes sense unless completely integrated with other concentrations, making his situation unique. He said, for example, directors work with each field of practice, such as camera operators, editors and writers, who all rely on each other to complete their jobs—otherwise production cannot happen.

“The upside is we can manage these kinds of things by spreading [cuts] across the whole operation,” Sheridan said. “The downside is it generally affects production [and] the amount of filmmaking that we can undertake.”

Sherwood Community Music School also endured substantial budget cuts during the 2014–2015 academic year. Robert Tenges, executive director of Sherwood, said making those cuts was difficult, but it made the center stronger. He said he expects to have a similar experience with this year’s cuts.

“While I know [these new cuts] are painful and some of them are very deep, I have not heard anything come out of [the administration’s] mouths that wasn’t spoken without being viewed through the lens of student experience,” Tenges said.

Ken Daley, chair of the English Department, said he does not anticipate the department’s cuts being too severe, adding that he does not expect to have to cut any staff or faculty or make any drastic changes to student services.

Sheridan said he is concerned that the college administration will handle the budget in this manner every year. He said he thinks the college can manage it this time but does not want to repeat this process going forward for any future budget concerns.

“[The college] can only plan one year to [the next] because of enrollment,” Sheridan said. “But what we really need is bigger, notable plans over longer periods of time that we can vary and choose from, depending on how things pan out. I really don’t think we can do this just by going year to year.”

As of press time, chairs Susan Imus of the Creative Arts Therapies Department, Carol Rozansky of the Education Department and Pantelis Vassilakis of the Audio Arts & Acoustics Department declined to comment. Chairs Barbara Calabrese of the Radio Department, Joseph Cancellaro of the Interactive Arts & Media Department, Tim Cozzens of the Design Department, Peter Fitzpatrick of the Photography Department and Jeff Schiff of the Fashion Studies Department could not be reached for comment.