17 November 2010

My Question for the Week

Can anyone tell me (in dollars--not percentages, not comparisons to the amount requested, just plain dollars) how much money the university had each year since 2001 for actual operating costs? Not money dedicated to particular research or locked into an endowed chair, money that the university could use to pay teachers, underwrite research, provide essential university services to students.

I look at the operating budget and get sums that are not coherent with the claim that WSU has lost enormous amounts from its operating budget--so I must assume (given my acceptance that no one would lie about the operating budget) that much more of the current money is locked down for specific purposes than in our prior budgets. Is there any way to get this information from any public source?

Lynn Gordon


  1. A year ago, this would have been a terrific question. Now? The state-level budget cuts have overrun everything. We are going to see our state appropriation shrink by 50% or MORE over two years. Even if tuition goes up by 30%, that still leaves a huge hit. Every time you think the state budget news can't get worse, we take another big step down.

    I am starting to wonder what WSU will look like a couple of years from now.

  2. Actually, I disagree. The money situation becoming worse does not make understanding it moot.

  3. Oh, and I wonder too--just what brand of bad will WSU be in after two years of deep cuts. Sometimes it's too depressing to think about.

    Have a nice Thanksgiving!

  4. The administration doesn't have to share detailed budget information in a timely manner and they won't. The administration doesn't have to take faculty perspectives into account when making strategic decisions, and they won't. I'd love to see a reduction in the administrative bloat at WSU, but Dr. Floyd has made it clear that won't happen. I'd love to have meaningful faculty governance, but our faculty senate is completely impotent.

    December 21, after everyone is gone, our senior administrators will inform affected individuals that they have been let go. There will be no time for meaningful discussion or defense.

    So what do we do? The only real power any of us have is the power to leave. WSU, love it or leave it.

  5. Love it and leave it, if you can in the middle of an academic depression.

    I've heard it argued (I hope wrongly) that the administration wants an opaque budget in order to make it difficult for the legislature to complain about how the money is spent. I hope that is false, because it would be completely unethical for a public institution to be run that way.

    Transparency ought to be not merely our goal, but our practice.

  6. My guess is that most faculty have skills that would translate well to the private sector. Unemployment for highly educated professionals is less than 4%. Love it or leave it applies to academia as well as WSU.

    I wouldn't be surprised if our budget was purposely opaque to reduce legislative meddling. But now many legislators say "we don't know what you do with the money we give you." Double-edged sword.

    Personally, I think most citizen activists and legislators WANT to know exactly where the money goes. I agree that as a public institutions, there should be no secrets at WSU.

  7. While you don't have an answer to your original question, based upon the most recent budget cuts it would seem that we have now wrung almost all of the vacant positions and "float" out of the system. On one hand, this confirms that the crisis really wasn't that dire: (a) at the start of the biennium; (b) with the additional cuts back in Feb, 2009; or (c) with the most recent Sep/Oct clawback. WSU has been able to handle these cuts largely with attrition, and we have still been able to proceed with administrative and faculty hires deemed critical.

    On the down side, there doesn't appear to be much if any slack left in the system. So how do we absorb the next clawback? How do we absorb the permanent budget reduction almost certain to come with the next biennial state budget?

    It would seem that many programs have received a stay of execution, but not a pardon. I loath the thought of going through this whole budget cutting process yet again this spring.

  8. I look forward with trepidation. However, I will say again, these discussion would be more useful if we had all the facts. Right now we can be waved away whenever the administration likes by merely asserting that we don't know everything they know--a position we are not in voluntarily.


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