Campus adjusts to budget plan

Shawntaye Hopkins

Reality is setting in as Western students, faculty and staff learn about the sacrifices they will have to make to meet recent budget cuts.

Several concerns are looming on the Hill regarding the budget reduction plan that was approved by the Board of Regents on Friday.

Everyone on the Hill will have to adjust to changes in the plan.

“I don’t think anybody in their right mind would like it, but it’s something we have to live with,” said Herb Simmons, a professor of curriculum and instruction.

Frankfort junior Scott Ashburn has some concerns, but knew changes were coming.

“If there’s a tight financial situation, something has to be done,” he said.

Ransdell said several of the policies were luxuries that Western can’t afford during budget cuts, but some changes will make the university more efficient and effective.

Simmons said in the past he attended all of the women’s basketball games at discounted prices.

Eliminating the faculty and staff discount of athletic tickets was one of the policy changes in the budget plan.

The policy change is expected to save Western about $50,000 every year.

Staff Council Chair Elizabeth Paris said she received several e-mails about the loss of that benefit.

Simmons was disappointed by the news about faculty tickets, but that wasn’t the only issue.

“My biggest concern is the problem with communication between the administrators and faculty,” he said.

The tickets will no longer be discounted using money in Western’s general fund, but the athletics department could find a way to discount tickets.

Zone technician David Appleby said he is concerned about all employee benefits.

One of his primary concerns is a policy change affecting the university self-insured medical insurance reserve fund.

The university will not make its usual $190 deposit into the plan for each of its 180 members. This will generate a one-time amount of $385,000. Ransdell said the reserve fund is currently stable and this change should not effect premiums.

But policy changes may have a negative impact in the future, Appleby said.

He compared employee benefits to a pie.

“You can take a little bite today, and take a bite tomorrow,” he said. “The next thing you know that pie has been ate.”

Western employees will also have a maximum of 20 vacation hours carried over into next year, instead of 24 hours. All additional hours will be converted into sick days.

Ransdell said the budget plans will be reviewed after two years.

But there are some changes that might make Western more efficient.

Appleby said cutting back on lighting in some buildings is a good idea that should have been considered earlier.

Ashburn, who is also a Campus Activity Board member, said he is concerned about the fate of student activities.

“It’s something that keeps Western what it is, and keeps students active,” Ashburn said.

He also disagrees with the change in the university’s class dropping and adding policy.

Students will have to pay $20 to drop and add a course after the sixth day in each term.

Other students were concerned about tuition increases.

But there were no tuition increases released with the budget cut plan.

Chicago junior Hajara Mahmood doesn’t agree with several of the policy changes.

“It’s a great disadvantage to the students because we already have so many things to deal with and the tuition is high enough,” she said.

George Wright, a freshman from Evansville, Ind., said he doesn’t think six days is enough time to give students to drop and add courses.

“You don’t know your professors and you don’t know how the class is going to be after six days,” Wright said.

The policy change is expected to produce about $20,000 each semester. But Ransdell said he intends for it to reduce the amount of class change activity in the first weeks of each semester.

Bowling Green junior Jyoti Sahi doesn’t agree that students should have to pay higher rates for credit hours over 18, another policy change.

“So if you want to challenge yourself and take more classes, you have to pay for it,” she said.

Employees such as Simmons know Western will be OK in the end.

“We’ve lived through cuts like this before,” he said.

Reach Shawntaye Hopkins at [email protected]