Concerns about the effects of potential state cuts to University funding were the primary topic of discussion yesterday when University President Mary Sue Coleman met with the Senate Advisory Committee on University Affairs.
“We don’t have any definite word yet,” Coleman said. Because Governor John Engler, whose term will be up Jan. 1, is in the process of balancing the budget, the University will not know how much money it will be getting from the state until after Thanksgiving break, Coleman added.
Coleman allayed fears that faculty salaries will be affected if the state makes budget cuts. She said the need to retain good staff and to attract the best faculty is one of the University’s top priorities despite rising costs.
SACUA Chair and Prof. Charles Koopmann said SACUA is most concerned about benefits and salary programs and how new programs, like the Life Sciences Institute, will affect existing academic programs.
“It would have the potential of affecting other programs because of possible recruitment and donor issues. It’s too early to know about the positive and negative spin offs,” Koopmann said.
Coleman said the Life Sciences Institute should not affect funding for other programs, unless money from the tobacco settlement is lower than expected. She also said other LSI funding would come primarily from the health sciences departments and the University Health System, who would be able to do joint recruitment of faculty with the LSI.
SACUA members also had concerns about their role in helping the administration make decisions about the budget.
Koopmann said SACUA has not played a role in helping the administration with the University’s budget in past years.
“It’s going to depend on what role she sees us playing. We’ve not had a role because there’s not been a budget crunch. In a time of budget constraints this will be a new function, how to try to help the administration set priorities,” he said.
SACUA Vice-chair Prof. John Gobetti said he thinks Coleman has been very receptive to faculty advice so far.
Another funding issue brought up at yesterday’s meeting was the Michigan Student Assembly’s proposal to increase student fees to improve recreational facilities. The results of an MSA ballot showed that the majority of students want the fee increase. Coleman said the administration is in the process of examining the issue.
“We are looking at it real closely to see if it might be possible,” she said.
Other concerns Coleman addressed were childcare for faculty, graduate students and undergraduates, and recent changes in the NCAA’s academic requirements.
Coleman said the NCAA’s changes include increasing core academic requirements for student athletes in high school, and changing requirements to obtain a degree.
“This is the first of a long series of what we hope are reforms,” Coleman said. “These are ways in which we can have a possible impact on student athletes’ success.”