As we await the administration’s proposals for dealing with the legislature’s budget cuts, I want to make clear the faculty union’s position on the possibilities that have been widely discussed.
First and foremost, we do not accept that the cuts imposed by the legislature must inevitably lead to a reduction in funding to academic programs, let alone to faculty layoffs or salary reductions through furloughs or other means. The legislature apportioned its cuts on the basis of its estimate of the reserves of the different universities (an estimate not disputed by UF) and was explicit that it expected these to be drawn on to make up what increases in tuition did not. Thus the imposition of cuts on programs and faculty represents a choice by the administration, one that it is not bound to make and is, in fact, at odds with the legislature’s clear intent.
In fact, the administration is using the cuts by the state, as it did on previous occasions, as an opportunity to shift funds from existing programs and faculty to priorities of its own. (President Machen on an earlier cut: budget problems are an “opportunity to re-shape the University in a way that would be difficult to do in normal times”.) Nothing can make this clearer than the fact that, once again, the administration has not even mentioned the obvious, and traditionally first, step in dealing with financial difficulty, namely, a freeze on hiring. Until that step is taken, we must remain sceptical of claims that there is no alternative to making existing programs and faculty bear the burden of the reduced funding from the state.
In any case, the cuts from the state are one-time, non-recurring ones, and should not be used as an excuse to make permanent changes in the allocation of funds in the university. Yet this is clearly what the administration has in mind to do, as is already clear from the differences in past cuts and from the targets it has given to the colleges this time.
For all these reasons, we believe that there is no justification for thinning out an already over-stretched faculty through layoffs and non-renewals or for imposing a salary cut in the guise of furloughs. To discuss which of these evils we should choose would be inevitably represented as a concession that one or the other is needed and a willingness to acquiesce in it. This is something the union is not prepared to do. Instead, it will scrutinize whatever proposals the administration makes and insist that no cuts are made unless the need for them is fully and transparently demonstrated.
(It should be noted that the union’s position is in agreement with the AAUP’s policies regarding financial exigency. (See the AAUP’s “Policies and Best Practices“.)
John Biro, President