Administrators, faculty at odds over budget

University Senate members are alarmed by a recent finding that the university’s academics budget decreased from last year.

Senate president Robert Dietle announced during the University Senate meeting Thursday that the portion of Western’s budget given to academics – which he said has routinely hovered around 60 percent – dropped this year to 57 percent.

During the 1997-1998 academic year – President Gary Ransdell’s first year on the Hill – 58.5 percent of the overall budget was devoted to academics.

Administrators are slow to wave the red flag.

Ransdell said much of Western’s overall budget is earmarked for specific projects, because contributors request their money go to specific uses. Because of this, parts of the overall budget are not at the complete disposal of the university to distribute.

Chief Financial Officer Ann Mead said the university has given more money to academics from the portion of the budget it controls.

The budget for academics, excluding the earmarked funds, has increased since 1997-1998 by 2.2 percent from 60.1 to 62.3.

Mead said, that by these calculations, no departmental budget at Western decreased this year. She said anyone claiming a decrease in the academic budget this year is not looking at the funds correctly.

But Dietle is still alarmed by the dropping percentage of overall funds going to academics.

Other senate members are concerned, too.

Dietle said every department at Western, especially academics, is “starving” for funding.

“(The) academic budget is routinely raided to find the money for other things,” Dietle said.

Mathematics professor Claus Ernst said a recent request by the Council on Postsecondary Education that every state university set aside 3 percent of their budgets to levee a possible state budget cut could be a reason for the decrease.

He said under Western’s current budgeting system, any cut like the one requested by the CPE would most likely be felt by academics.

“I think it’s regrettable,” Ernst said.

Ransdell said Western has set aside $2 million of its budget to counteract state budget cuts that may come this year. He said the state has not requested the funding from Western yet, but the university has the money in a holding account.

Ransdell said the $2 million was revenue Western gained from enrollment growth this fall – not money from the academics budget.

He said if the funding is not requested by the state, the money will be put into academics and across campus to help relieve the pressures from enrollment.

Associate history professor Patricia Minter would welcome that additional funding. She said faculty are being asked to offer more classes for more students, but with less money.

Minter said she has seen a steady decline in the portion of the university budget given to academics since she began teaching at Western in 1993.

“Academics are the university as far as I’m concerned,” she said.

Reach Molly O’Connor at [email protected]