CAPRA MEETING, MARCH 12, 2010
Attending: Paul Bingham, Ora Bouey, Alan Calder, Kane Gillespie, Bill Godfrey, Norm Goodman, Gene Katz, Joan Kuchner, Daria Semegen, Alan Tucker, Larry Wittie
Guest: Provost Eric Kaler
Discussion with Provost Eric Kaler
Provost Kaler indicated that he is meeting with CAPRA to inform it of what he has begun to deal with the current budget situation, and to ask it how it would like to be involved in his budget deliberations. Norm reported the committee’s appreciation of his openness in the past and his current willingness to involve CAPRA in his budget planning process. Norm indicated that we respect his right to set the budgetary decisions but requested that CAPRA be involved in the process at a stage where tentative plans had been formulated, and which were still subject to modification before final decisions needed to be made. Provost Kaler agreed that such a role would be useful and he will be discussing it with the deans. President Stanley maintains control over some data and needs to decide what is appropriate to share with faculty governance.
In his report, Provost Kaler indicated that he needs to have a “high tolerance for ambiguity” since there is no definitive word on the SUNY budget or its reallocation to the campuses. If the cuts proposed by Governor Paterson were enacted, with no restoration or any other revenue source, Stony Brook faces a $30 M budget deficit for 2010-2011 and about a $40 M budget deficit for 2011-2012. Some items in the utilities, IDC, and other budgets have already been cut leaving little available for further reductions in these areas [note: the latest estimate for 2010-2011 is a campus deficit of $33.5 M].
There is consideration being given to a “separation package” for those with at least 30 years at Stony Brook. A very tentative estimate is that this might yield about $5 M, and a tuition increase might yield about another $10 M resulting in a reduction of the budget cuts that have to be dealt with to about $15 M, still a large amount on top of the budget cuts of previous years. However, if there is a tuition increase associated with PHEEIA, there would be a predictable revenue stream that would allow the campus to borrow funds for its immediate needs with the ability to pay back those loans from future tuition revenues. If PHEEIA doesn’t pass, a tuition increase in some form will be essential to avoid these large cuts. The point was made that from a student’s perspective, budget cuts that increase the time to graduate by an additional year is worse than a 10% tuition increase. Also, if there is not tuition increase, it is likely that fees will be increased substantially, and fees are not covered by TAP, especially disadvantaging the most economically vulnerable students. There was mention of increasing enrollments in the winter and summer sessions as an additional source of funds since those revenues are maintained by the campus and, in fact, like new Masters Programs, a large portion of these funds are returned to the departments that generate them.
In order there to be retrenchment, Governor Paterson must declare a state of “fiscal exigency.” However, Provost Kaler sees that as unlikely in an election year. Also, he pointed out the complications of retrenchment, which would involve “bumping rights” based on seniority contained in union contracts that will lead to the most junior person, with a relatively low salary, being let go with little help to meet the budgetary gap. Consequently, without retrenchment, some programs may have to be cut. In evaluating where necessary cuts would have to be made, Provost Kaler indicated that there are certain criteria that he would need to consider: academic quality of the program; curricular centrality; the loss of tuition revenue; ability to bring in IFR, IDC, and royalty funds, etc. Clearly, it would be appropriate to cut low-value, high-cost programs, but he indicated that there really few, if any, such programs on the campus. Some suggestions put forth involved replacing advising staff with faculty, but Provost Kaler pointed out that academic advising has become an important professional task, and most faculty have neither the time nor knowledge to do it as well as those trained for that purpose. The committee studying the DEC program, chaired by Tom Hemmick, may well simplify it for some additional savings. Also, there was some mention of changing appropriate courses from 3 to 4 credits (as is the case at Binghamton), thereby reducing the number of courses students will have to take to graduate and, consequently, the number of faculty required. It was pointed out that suggestion had been made as far back as the 1960s but never implemented because of the concern that it would, in labor terms, be considered a “speed-up.” There are units in the provost’s area that do not generate revenue (e.g., the Melville Library, enrollment management) and might, therefore, be cut; however, these units are essential to a university and their elimination would reduce but not adequately resolve the budget problem the campus faces.
There was a discussion of the public relations aspect of the current budgetary situation. Specifically, the contrast with the massive demonstrations in California over the cuts to higher education was mentioned. Provost Kaler agreed with the importance of informing the community of the budget problems we face and its likely consequences for their children and the economy of the community as collateral damage, but that has to be done most delicately so that we don’t scare off potential students. While Newsday has supported SUNY and Stony Brook, there has not been a consistent drumbeat in the media about the devastating effects of the proposed budget cuts. Provost Kaler has been asked to meet with a reporter to discuss the situation of the Humanities in the face of these budget problems.
Despite all these problems, Provost Kaler indicates that he is optimistic that there will be politically stability in New York State and the economy will improve. However, his goal is “is to keep the patient alive for the next two years and then come back stronger.”
There was a brief discussion by Larry Wittie of the budgetary data he has been accumulating, and the need to get similar data from the Vice President of Student Affairs. There was also a very brief discussion of the Songdo Initiative; Gene Katz agreed to serve as CAPRA’s representative on the Task Force on Songdo being established by the Executive Committee of the University Senate.