Budget Cuts, Reorganization, and Frustration in COE

The College of Education (COE) has recently been presented with relatively significant budget cut targets by the Provost’s office.  The COE faculty are eager to find ways to maintain the excellence of our programs while also achieving the prescribed fiscal goals.  Unfortunately, we are not being given the information that would make such collaborative problem solving possible.  Frustration levels are high.

In response to this situation, UA stewards in COE recently hosted a meeting of college faculty with UA Executive Director David Cecil.  25 faculty attended, and 28 others sent regrets along with lists of their concerns.  The concerns expressed included:

  • The metrics being used by the Provost’s office to determine alleged College and Department inefficiencies have not been disclosed.
  • The metrics being used to determine individual departmental and program budget cut targets, have also not been disclosed.
  • When these concerns about ambiguity were expressed to VP Brad Shelton in a recent faculty meeting, he framed them as expressions of faculty recalcitrance.  Many faculty experienced this as patronizing and insulting.

Responses from all levels of administration seem to be lacking.

Faculty are being asked department by department to identify where cuts can be made without compromising the intellectual integrity of degree programs.  This is salutary, because it is department faculty who understand the curricular content of programs.  It is, however, a difficult task.  The difficulty has been compounded by the fact that the budget model for the whole university remains obscure.  This has led to what appear to many in the COE to be incoherent directives.  For example, COE faculty have been told some solutions are off the table—such as OA reductions, increased enrollments, faculty retirements and faculty buyouts.  No rationale for this has been given.

Given these constraints, college administration have asked faculty to increase NTTF workloads without a corresponding increase in FTE or pay.  This appears to be a direct violation of Article 26, Section 9 of the CBA.  If so, this will be grieved. This means budget targets must be met through reduction in Career and ProTem NTTF FTE.  Many COE degree programs, however, depend on the unique expertise of NTTF.

COE faculty have been directed to cut costs without regard for revenue impact.  This makes no sense if fiscal solvency of the COE and the University is the goal.  If some revenue generating programs are eliminated, not only will this cause harm to University enrollments it will take years to rebuild the programs once the error of such cuts are realized.  However, without a clear and transparent budget model, it is difficult to see what actions affect the College and University bottom line.

The above challenges are further compounded by a proposal that COE departments be reorganized.  Again, it is not clear whether this proposal is coming from the Provost’s office or the Dean’s office.  Whatever its origin, no fiscal benefit to such a reorganization has been identified.   And no curricular benefit has been identified that faculty teaching in those programs recognize.  So far faculty see no benefit to this plan that will justify the work it will require of faculty in the coming year.  This seems like a distraction from the actual budget problems we face.

Whether these ambiguous directives are emanating from the Provost’s office or the Dean’s office or both, they are creating anxiety and frustration, and motivating faculty to organize for the sake of the coherence of the degree programs in which they work.  COE faculty are learning that the CBA, their own Internal Governance Policies, and our union are useful in moments such as these.  If similar changes are coming to you unit, and you would like assistance in organizing your colleagues or facilitating a conversation with administration, please reach out to the leadership of United Academics.