Dear Members of the Campus Community,
I'm writing to discuss the campus budget situation, and the measures we will be taking to meet the financial challenges in which we find ourselves.
I'll begin by saying that we have no real idea where our finances stand—although we should have our first preliminary indication by the end of this week. As you probably know, the governor's budget director has been given the unilateral authority, at three separate times during the year, to make total cuts of up to $10 billion dollars in the state budget, if revenue collection falls short of initial projections. Since revenue collection is an ongoing process over the year and revenue will be deeply affected by the economic downturn, it's hard to gauge where we'll be by the end of the state's fiscal year. This Friday, we will learn what cuts were made in the first such opportunity. I have been told unofficially to plan for 10% cuts, but the truth is we're all trying to read the tea leaves. It could be more than that or less. As a campus, we must prepare for all scenarios, and if we're not entirely sure where things stand we can be sure that the cuts will be deep.
Every unit of the College will be required to present plans for reduction; everything will be on the table. I have asked the campus to come up with a 10% budget reduction-something we haven't had to contemplate in decades. But we also need to plan for deeper cuts, should they be announced, of 15% and 20%. These cuts will require every corner of the campus to examine its portfolio of activity, evaluate what elements of that portfolio need absolutely to be preserved, and how we can execute those functions in the most efficient way possible.
It is also important that we all understand that all units of the college—academic and non-academic alike—will be asked to make these reductions. No college unit will be left unscathed and no element of our budget can be considered sacrosanct. However, it will also be impossible to undertake across the board cuts as an equal percentage of everyone's budget, because the capacity of all units of the college to scale back activities or find efficiencies is not equal. We're therefore asking all units of the college to follow a protocol that will help them identify the cuts they will make. With this note, I've attached a planning memo that I distributed to cabinet, to senior leadership, and to the college-wide P & B. They are using that memo, and the measures proposed therein, to make initial cuts—but also enlist the energies and ideas of everyone in their area of work in that effort.
I'm also attaching slides representing preliminary responses to that memo—developed by the college's senior leadership--showing where and how initial cuts will take place across the college's different units. These responses include some across the board measures—like a pause on all unsponsored research leave for faculty for the coming year—and more specific measures, like a decision to leave 18 public safety vacancies until the college is fully back in session. These plans and the preliminary figures they generate await the engagement of different units of the college, guided by provost, deans, VPs and AVPs, working within the units that submitted these reports. These measures will require compromise on some of our preferred modes of work, adjustments, and service reductions.
But to retain our viability as an institution we must not merely eliminate and reduce. Rather, we must imagine new ways of fulfilling our mission—teaching and supporting student needs, developing research and creative work, and engaging with our public missions and responsibility. I hope that throughout the college, your engagement with this process will help us understand not just how to reduce our budget, but how we do so in ways that preserve the most important elements of our mission. We will, at some point, know exactly what cuts we'll need to make—even if it's not until January when the state budget director has his final chance to reduce our budget. If the cuts we generate in the participatory stage of this process are not sufficient, then the college leadership will need to revisit your responses and balance the budget with additional cuts.
Here, then, is how the process will proceed:
- You now have the framework memo and the preliminary list of cuts/strategies developed by leadership. The college-wide P & B and the Cabinet will continue to work in ways guided by this memo both to identify deeper cuts and to explore what revenue-generating activity we can pursue to help close our gap.
- Starting from the framework document and the preliminary cuts that senior leadership has developed, you will evaluate your own work and make your own cuts and changes in how you operate. In the case of academic units, you will have a cut target to reach and should have some discussion with the college's academic leadership about how to get there—strategies that involve cutting courses that are under-enrolled, changing class sizes, moving some classes to large or online lecture format supported by discussion sections, mobilizing philanthropic resources if you have them, and perhaps reducing contingent staff.
- We will then aggregate the impact that these cuts have on our budget. If they add up to something close to a 10% reduction in our budget, we will await news, later this week and across the year, if these cuts will be sufficient. If they do not, then college leadership will evaluate each division with an eye to deepening these cuts in order to make our target. In doing so, we will look both at how much a unit has already done, and what further opportunities exist to reduce spending.
These are obviously deeply challenging times, and our budget difficulty will touch every last member of our campus community. The situation is made more difficult, at the moment, because of the many things we do not know for sure—principle among them, how large the budget shortfall will eventually be. (The third attachment to this memo is a fairly good but short analysis that puts the budget crisis in some context—part of my effort to read the tea leaves.) As we move forward, I pledge to be as transparent as I possibly can be, communicating what I know when I know it, and convey what I surmise by analyzing the public record, and showing my work when I do so. I also think it's important that each of you are able to examine the entire campus record, to see how the entire community is rising to this challenge, and so communicating where we are with this work will be paramount.
As you'll see in the attached document, I plan to pursue a solution to our predicament in ways that are guided by values that we share, though these values will be challenged by our budget shortfalls. I ask that we all endeavor to our adjustments with grace, as part of an overall strategy to protect the College's fundamental purpose and values.