Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

A free and responsible press serving the UMass community since 1890

Massachusetts Daily Collegian

UMass campus braces for budget cuts

With change being the operative word, a new year, new president and new semester all position the University of Massachusetts for a time of change. However, in the case of the University’s financial position, not all change can be good.

Indeed, upcoming changes are exactly what UMass students should expect, especially with nearly $50 million expected to be cut from the campus budget.

Many of the ways the University will cope with the cuts are already in place. However, most of them will not be directly impacting students this semester, but rather the next.

‘The $45 million projected budget gap is for next fiscal year, which begins July 1,’ said UMass spokesman Ed Blaguszewski. ‘For this fiscal year, to date the campus has incurred an $11.3 million cut in its budget. This year’s cut shouldn’t impact students, since we made one-time reductions in budgets, which included a targeted hiring freeze and curtailment of travel.’

In an effort to update both students and faculty on the latest budget processes and executive area budget cuts, on Dec. 16 and Jan. 13, Chancellor Robert Holub released two more campus-wide e-mails.

In his Jan. 13 e-mail, the chancellor stressed that while the University will be cutting back wherever possible, the goal of the Budget Task Force is to maintain the academic quality of the University.

‘My charge to the Task Force was simple: consider all strategies to deal with this fiscal crisis in ways that allow us to focus our energy and resources on our core values of teaching and research,’ said Holub in his January e-mail.

The budget cuts will be executive area cuts and mergers in the administration by over $500,000 and reductions in capital funding through a hold of $5 million in capital construction.

‘Fund reductions of $1.5 million for lab renovations and deferred maintenance,’ one-time savings by cancelling $3.8 million for the Stockbridge pedestrian walkway, $2 million in electrical work, and $650,000 in campus landscape improvements and signage,’ said Blaguszewski, of the specific construction projects already placed on hold.

There are also cuts of $1.5 million in base spending on maintenance and other construction projects, such as $500,000 from refurbishing academic offices and laboratories, $464,000 from long-term deferred maintenance funds, and $500,000 from moves on campus for relocation.

‘The cuts I am aware of have to do with ‘campus beautification’ projects,’ said professor Ernest May, chairman of the Budget Task Force and secretary of the Faculty Senate. ‘All construction projects underway are scheduled to be completed. New construction projects are part of the capital budget, not the operating budget, which is where the cuts are targeted.’

In addition to these steps taken by the Budget Task Force to cut back expenses, reductions to energy consumption have also been enacted.

‘Reducing energy consumption and costs was an idea that drew widespread support and suggestions from all segments of campus,’ added Holub in his December e-mail. ‘Today I want to announce that we will set centrally controlled thermostats on campus down to 67 degrees.’

Blaguszewski added that UMass has reduced its energy consumption by 21 percent over the past four years.

‘The campus has reduced its consumption of steam by 24 percent, water by 43 percent and electricity by 9 percent since 2002,’ explained Blaguszewski. ‘In addition, all campus buildings now have meters to measure electric consumption and several revenue-based campus departments are being offered rebates if they can reduce their utility costs.’

What students will see next year is the potential for reorganization of schools and colleges within the University, for example, to combine the College of Humanities and Fine Arts with the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

‘The University is considering a consolidation of academic administration, including a reorganization of the schools and colleges. Such action would cut administrative costs, preserving funds for teaching, learning and research,’ said Blaguszewski.

‘Budget cuts may result in a reduction of faculty positions (through vacancies, departures and retirements), larger classes, fewer courses, and staff layoffs,’ he continued. ‘However, the University will protect its core teaching and research mission, and position itself for’ future success.’ We expect students will be able to arrange a full schedule of courses and proceed toward graduation as scheduled.’

UMass student Lindsay McCluskey, a representative on the Budget Task Force, stated that the biggest impact on UMass students will be the increase in fees next fiscal year.

‘I think that we will feel the pain from
the budget cuts next year. The fundamental change students will feel is the increase in fees, especially as the private loan industry is so competitive. There is no hard data on it, but the chancellor has requested a 15 percent fee increase,’ said McCluskey

May agrees, but urges students to keep in mind that this fee increase is vital to maintain the value of a UMass education.

‘There is no doubt that a $1,500 fee increase in the cost of attending UMass will be a heavy burden for students,’ said May. ‘However, it is absolutely necessary in order to maintain the quality of a UMass education.’

While the floundering economy may make these changes seem inevitable, Chancellor Holub, May and McCluskey all stress that there is possibility for change in another form ‘- advocacy.

‘This is clearly the time for students and their parents to let their governor and their legislatures know that this situation is not acceptable, and that they must fix it,’ said May. ‘UMass students come from every part of the state ‘- every legislative district. If every legislator heard from enough students, parents, alumni, etc., in strong enough terms, another solution would be found.’

‘If there are students who are interested with working with the Student Government Association and other organizations advocating at the state capital and in [Washington] D.C., I encourage students to get involved,’ added McCluskey. ‘The only way I see a change coming is if students get together and work for it.’

Lisa DeBenedictis can be reached at [email protected].

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