Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Holub Addresses Senate

By Michael King, Collegian Staff

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James Weliver/Collegian

As the University of Massachusetts braces for a $46 million deficit next fiscal year, Chancellor Robert Holub addressed the Faculty Senate Thursday afternoon in response to growing concern over the budget and proposed administrative restructuring.

Holub offered a detailed overview of the impending shortfall, and introduced a plan to restructure the University’s colleges during his presentation in the Campus Center auditorium. He framed the reorganization as a way to help close the deficit without affecting money earmarked for students or faculty and characterized it as ‘the best alternative among a bunch of other alternatives I don’t like.’

Holub portrayed the restructuring as definitive, but declined to offer a detailed proposal during his presentation.

He told the faculty that a potential plan could ‘eliminate three colleges.’ The chancellor acknowledged that he wanted to consolidate the life sciences, but would not touch the professional schools in effort to avoid accreditation complications.

However, he failed to address a long-rumored merger between the College of Humanities and Fine Arts and the College of Arts and Sciences.

‘Not right now, but soon there will have to be,’ Holub said when asked if he had a detailed merger plan in mind. ‘I have some thoughts, but my thoughts have changed over the time I’ve met with faculty and staff. I assume that after tomorrow I will have to formulate something.’

Regardless of any possible plan’s details, it would fail to be a panacea for the University’s budget crisis, as Holub estimated that it would net the University a savings of between $1-2 million per year. Additional one-time costs would also accompany a merger.

Holub characterized the plan as way to streamline operations, while avoiding a duplication of functions.

‘This is all a hard pill to swallow. But given the range of possibilities, maybe this isn’t the worst way to go,’ Communications professor Donal Carbaugh said. ‘There’s a lot to be decided or a lot to be made public, depending on how you look at it.’

Holub characterized the general faculty reaction during the extensive question-and-answer session as similar to what he’s experienced during recent meetings with faculty and staff.

‘I don’t think there was anything astounding or new here, but it was important to hear it in this venue,’ Holub told The Collegian immediately after addressing the faculty.

The chancellor remarked that he would continue to hold meetings with faculty and offer the nature of a restructuring proposal in the near future.

Holub patiently answered questions for over an hour, as a long queue of concerned faculty members waited to pose an inquiry.

‘I think the meeting went as expected,’ he said. ‘There are people who are upset about things and I can understand that and I’m upset about them too.’

At one point during the question period, a flustered Holub bluntly asked the audience if it wanted details of a possible restructuring plan. The faculty responded with a resounding ‘yes,’ but the chancellor only offered a promise to provide more information at a later date.

During his presentation, the chancellor leveraged his experience as a German professor at the University of California-Berkeley as a way to empathize with the reaction of the faculty. In addition, Holub admitted that he would prefer to cut from the administration than divert funds from faculty hiring.

The chancellor admitted that the concept of restructuring precipitated from a conversation with a distinguished faculty member and that the idea took shape in November. He then gradually solicited input from faculty members and staff over the past several months.

Furthermore, Holub told the faculty that the University’s Board of Trustees was expecting a detailed proposal soon, but emphasized that he was not pressured into making this decision.

The chancellor stressed that the reorganization would not affect the day-to-day activity of the faculty. Yet, he was clear to acknowledge that the plan could only succeed with full faculty support.

‘It’s evident that the chancellor’s been thinking about reorganization for some time,’ Steve Brewer said. ‘But so far there have only been ru
mors and not much in the way of details. It doesn’t sound like it’s a fait accompli at this point and that it has the potential to be adjusted or changed.’

Holub opened the meeting with a general overview of the University’s current budget situation, offering detailed financial information on the impending decrease in funding and increase in expenses.

The Faculty Senate meeting was organized through a request by the chancellor and petition by at least 10 percent of the faculty. An additional senate meeting will take place Feb. 9 at 4 p.m. to continue the restructuring dialogue.

Michael King can be reached at [email protected]

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