Indiscriminate across-the-board budget cutting is no way for the state or the University of Wyoming to respond to Wyoming’s economic downturn, the Academic Dean’s Council of the University of Wyoming says.
Instead, budget savings should be realized via voluntary separation packages for employees, outsourcing services, zero-based budgeting and more than a dozen other measures the council says. It made its comments in a 4-page letter to UW Board of Trustees President David Palmerlee and incoming UW president Laurie Nichols.
“As the Dean’s Council, we, too, are deeply concerned about the looming and apparently protracted budgetary issues faced by the state of Wyoming and the University of Wyoming,” the Dean’s Council wrote. “Nevertheless, we feel it is not in the best interest of the University to continue to communicate the narrative that there is a single or best solution to the problem of the current budget deficit in the state or the University.”
The May 2 letter responds to pending cuts to the UW budget, which may amount to 8 percent of its standard $417.5 million appropriation for the next 2-year budget cycle — depending upon Gov. Matt Mead’s final allocation of the statewide cut passed by the Legislature in March. Members of the Dean’s Council want the university and Gov. Mead’s office to take into consideration faculty turnover and lagging faculty raises, as well as the university’s unique role in potentially helping the state transition to a new economic reality that they say shouldn’t be so closely tied to mineral extraction.
“Although we have successfully and painfully navigated our way through the 2017 budget reductions at this point resulting in the loss of scores of instructional faculty positions university wide,” the Dean’s Council wrote, “we believe it is time for the university and the state to recognize that budget cutting is not the only solution to our current and future economic problems nor is our current economic situation one that has never before been seen in Wyoming and in other surrounding mountain states.”
Palmerlee and Nichols issued a 1-page response May 3, declaring solidarity with the Dean’s Council and its desire for an optimistic message in the midst of budget cuts.
“It is our joint goal to take a ‘bold, balanced and optimistic’ approach, working with the entire campus community, to build and maintain an excellent future for the University of Wyoming,” Palmerlee and Nichols wrote.
Nichols will assume her position of University of Wyoming President on May 16, replacing Dick McGinity.
University officials are in discussions with Mead’s staff regarding potential cuts, said Chris Boswell, UW vice president for governmental and community affairs.
“Obviously the folks here are anxious,” Boswell told WyoFile, “and the governor’s office is very aware of the [UW presidential] transition that occurs here. … so I think there’s some considerations there.”
Read the Dean’s Council letter:
Read the response by UW Board of Trustees President David Palmerlee and incoming UW President Laurie Nichols:
While I strongly identify with the message delivered by the UW faculty, as a 26 year veteran of the Northwest College faculty, and as president of that faculty, I wish Wyofile would also focus on how utterly catastrophic are the budget cuts to many of our community colleges. At mine, and at Central Wyoming College, they amount now to 20 percent of total operations revenues, to be cut by July 1st of 2016. Our salaries are also way behind. But we are being forced to lay off faculty and staff, and to eliminate programs. There are more students, collectively, at our seven colleges than at UW. Ironically, we are also expected to absorb many if the refugees from the collapse of the minerals economy. With the cuts, we will no doubt also start to lose faculty and staff as well, who despair at the circumstances of this state and the attitudes of decision makers toward our campuses. And who will want to come here to replace them?
The Governor doesn’t have to time to listen to common sense. He is too busy giving his personal staff big raises.