Budget needs trimming

Saint Louis University, undergoing a financial crunch due to a
weak stock market in the past few years, must cut $9.1 million out
of its $235 million budget by June 30, 2004.

According to interim Chief Financial Officer Bob Woodruff, the
University is looking to make these cuts through elimination of
travel expenses, as well as trimming administrative overhead costs
and consolidating programs that are similar in nature.

In addition, some faculty positions that are currently open may
not be filled. This has become a concern among some faculty
members, who fear a loss in programming in their departments.

“We are working with each division to identify opportunities,”
Woodruff said. “The University’s financial condition is strong. We
have a budget issue to deal with. This is not a budget
crisis–we’re going to get through this.”

Specific plans for cuts and consolidation have yet to be
announced. Each dean has until March 1, 2004, to submit a proposal,
a deadline set by Provost Joe Weixlmann, Ph.D.

The endowment’s depleted contribution to the budget this year is
the main cause for the crunch, according to Woodruff. The endowment
will contribute only $19.4 million to the budget this year, which
is down significantly from last year’s $33 million. The University
determines this contribution by taking 5.75 percent of the average
of the last 12 quarters of earnings.

The endowment has bounced back, however. As of Dec. 30, 2003, it
stands at $704 million, the first time it has been over the $700
million mark since 2002. It hit a low of $606 million in March
2003.

The benefits of this recent growth, however, will not be seen
for another two years.

Woodruff suggested that instead of looking at the situation from
the standpoint of doing more with less, that the University do less
with less, through consolidation.

“As a last resort, [the University] will look at reduction in
faculty lines,” Weixlmann said. “It is my sense … that we’re
going to wind up having a very similar number of faculty next year,
versus this year. We might have a small loss.”

Michael May, S.J., interim dean of the College of Arts and
Sciences, said that A&S may look at not filling all open
positions and that any hirings must be justified. According to
Weixlmann, A&S has a $26 million budget.

“We need to cut some costs–some will be easy, some will be more
challenging,” May said.

May also stressed that other means of cutting costs need to be
considered, such as encouraging faculty to seek outside funds for
research and more efficient fund raising.

May discussed specific numbers with A&S chairs in a meeting
on Thursday, Feb. 12.

“The signs have been out for quite awhile,” May said. “This is
the time we need to look for real specifics and make the numbers
match.”

While Weixlmann has stressed the importance of not affecting
academics during these cuts, May said that A&S is going to have
to do some things that will affect the students and the
classroom.

“There is always the other option, which is to charge students
(by raising tuition),” May said.

Thomas Madden, Ph.D., chair of the history department, is
worried about the implications that cuts could have on his
department.

“In our department, we’re already operating on a shoestring,”
Madden said.

Madden is upset that open faculty positions could be cut. For
the history department, which is currently undergoing searches for
two positions, this could mean the loss of two full-time faculty
members.

“I’m hopeful that the dean will explore other ideas than cutting
faculty,” Madden said.

The loss of even one faculty position would mean that SLU2000
classes currently offered in history would cease to exist as of
next fall, Madden said.

“The faculty is very upset and distraught, particularly ending a
search that is already in progress,” Madden said. “Once a search
has begun, telling the candidates that you have to end it will
immediately have a major impact on the field, department and the
University.” Madden said this is especially difficult because the
department has worked to build up world-class reputations.

Like Weixlmann, Madden thinks there are ways to make cuts that
would not affect the classroom.

“The faculty all across the college are very willing to make
sacrifices so that classes are not affected,” Madden said. “What is
hurting morale is that the faculty is worried about positions being
cut.”

Kathleen Farrell, Ph.D., chair of the department of
communication, said that all chairs were asked to voluntarily look
at their budgets and offer suggestions as to how they could cut
costs.

According to Farrell, the communication department faculty met
to decide what their core values were and how to keep the level of
education at the same or better.

“It is much better to give suggestions than to be told what to
do,” Farrell said. She stressed that the faculty was very willing
to make suggestions.

The communication department looked at several factors, such as
the part-time instructor budget and whether there are ways to
administer programs more efficiently by cutting out
bureaucracy.

She also compared the cuts to those that state universities are
facing.

“From where I sit, these are cuts that are modest compared to my
colleagues,” Farrell said.