Scrolling Headlines:

UMass football can’t overcome four third quarter Mississippi State touchdowns, fall 47-35 Saturday -

September 24, 2016

UMass football’s fourth quarter comeback attempt falls short against Mississippi State Saturday -

September 24, 2016

Cyr: Despite improvement, UMass football still can’t capture first marquee FBS win -

September 24, 2016

MassPIRG kicks off for the fall semester -

September 22, 2016

UMass Resistance Studies Initiative hosts activist and author George Lakey -

September 22, 2016

UMass field hockey readies for tough tests against Stanford, Boston College -

September 22, 2016

Calling the shots: everything you need to know about the flu vaccine -

September 22, 2016

UMass assistant Professor speaks about oppression of American Indians -

September 22, 2016

Astronomy department head hosting sundial and sky-watching event -

September 22, 2016

UMass football looks to pull off upset against Mississippi State Saturday -

September 22, 2016

Cyr: Comis? Ford? Here’s how I would handle the UMass quarterback situation this weekend against Mississippi State -

September 22, 2016

An unofficial presidential debate drinking game for the unruly masses -

September 22, 2016

Stop sweating the small stuff -

September 22, 2016

In defense of being uncomfortable -

September 22, 2016

Please go to sleep -

September 22, 2016

VIDEO – ‘Life in the Dollhouse: Wes Anderson and the Dollhouse Aesthetic’ -

September 22, 2016

Student struck by car near UMass’ Mullins Center -

September 21, 2016

President Anthony Vitale and Vice President Nick Rampone anticipate productive year at SGA -

September 21, 2016

Symposium hosts discussion on safety for journalism students -

September 21, 2016

Andrew Ford, Ross Comis still battling for UMass football’s starting QB position -

September 21, 2016

Amid financial woes, UMass must retain faculty

As Massachusetts sits mired in a $600 million budget deficit for fiscal year 2009, Gov. Deval Patrick announced plans over past weeks for dramatic cuts effecting state employees, with as many as 2,000 state jobs possibly on the chopping block and plans for mandatory furloughs. While it is too early to say exactly how many jobs will be affected at the University of Massachusetts’ flagship Amherst campus, local labor leaders were clearly disturbed by the governor’s announcement and with good reason.

Historically there has been a pitifully low level of spending on public higher education from Beacon Hill, and, despite pledging to change this in his campaign, Patrick admitted during his forum with UMass students last week that he will have his hands tied until state revenues return to their pre-recession levels. In the meantime, UMass Amherst  now faces a grim situation.

The numbers are jaw-dropping. UMass Chancellor Robert Holub stares at a $38.2 million shortfall. His administration will be looking at suggestions from the University’s Budget Planning Task Force to help make the tough decisions in the best long-term interest of the school.

Holub has made a number of solid suggestions for how the Amherst campus can be more efficient, cost-effective and self-sufficient. But the chancellor has acknowledged that when federal stimulus monies expire in 2011, even more drastic measures could surface.

There is no doubt, at this point, that the recession will mean job losses, leaving the Amherst 250 plan to retain faculty an apparent victim of circumstance until the economic tide comes back up. The importance now lies in determining how to best balance the distribution of the University’s modest resource pool.

In the context of the mid-year budget cuts, UMass Amherst Labor Coalition last week came out strongly against the demolition of the 60-year old University Apartments, which the school long ago deemed a public safety hazard. The building has sat empty for the past 15 years, and is in the process of being razed and turned into a 90-car parking lot, clearing the space for a future, modern building.

The situation offers an example of many such critical budget debates that will be occurring on campus in upcoming years. The Labor Coalition released a press release calling on the University to stop the $1.2 million project, along with other optional construction spending. Funding for the project came out of the school’s capital construction budget rather than the operating budget that pays out salaries, and this particular project has been planned for probably as long as the building has sat vacant.

It would be foolish for the school to cease all capital spending on a campus that already has stacked up deferred maintenance during decade after decade of weak support from Beacon Hill. However, there is validity to the idea that the capital budget for building renovations and maintenance should be reduced in order to retain as many jobs as possible at UMass.

Clearly the global economic downturn has left both state and campus leaders struggling to make the decisions needed to balance the bottom line, while at the same time hoping to position the school to emerge from the recession with impressive, world-class faculty and facilities. Thanks to UMass’ lack of dependence on its (small) endowment, it dodged the devastation sustained by most private college endowments in the past year of Wall Street turbulence.

If stabilized, UMass could improve its overall stature while most schools are still recovering. According to a recent Amherst Student article, Harvard’s endowment is down 27 percent this year, and Amherst College’s is down more than 20 percent.

Despite having its own unique set of problems, UMass has a good deal of upward institutional momentum at the moment, considering the new buildings opening across campus and a freshman class that is the brightest in school history. For this momentum to continue on though, it is imperative that the University does not forsake investing in what has been an increasingly precious resource: its faculty and staff.

Unsigned editorials represent the majority opinion of The Massachusetts Daily Collegian editorial board.

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