Scott MacGilvray and Scott Gordon contributed to this article.
The ECU Educational Policies and Planning Committee (EPPC) and the University Budget Committee (UBC) gave a joint report on budget-related items at the April 19 Faculty Senate meeting. Although offered jointly, the EPPC and UBC sections of the report were developed separately by each respective committee. Chancellor Ballard charged the EPPC to develop prioritization criteria for programs, departments, schools, and colleges and to explore options for consolidation/realignment of colleges, schools, and/or departments that may reduce administrative costs with minimal or no losses of faculty and staff positions. The Chancellor charged the UBC to provide advice on budget matters. This joint report provides important faculty input from these Committees on what we can do to reduce costs and manage the budget crisis.
The EPPC portion of the report has two sections: prioritization criteria and consolidation/realignment. The prioritization section consists of a matrix for comparison of criteria for productivity, centrality, and quality with other campus organizations and various external entities (e.g. UNC-System, Peer institutions, etc.). Other universities—including Washington State University, Indiana State University, and Central Michigan University—have developed prioritization criteria, and the EPPC consulted their published documents as a reference. If program elimination is necessary at ECU for long-term cost savings, these criteria will be used to determine which programs to consider for elimination. The report does not recommend any type of weights for the criteria. Weighting will be an important part of any discussion on prioritization and any future prioritization decision.
The consolidation/realignment section of the report was perhaps the most controversial matter discussed. The Chancellor charged the EPPC to explore realignment and consolidation options so that we can save money by reducing administration while possibly saving programs and faculty positions, but he did not give the Committee any suggestions on what this realignment should be. The report contains “potential consolidation options” discussed by the Committee. This is by no means a plan that we will implement at this stage. Faculty in each unit should discuss the options presented in the report along with other reorganization scenarios and provide their feedback and alternative ideas in this forum and the others provided. Right now we do not know what cost savings would be associated with this or any other realignment plan. Estimates of cost savings, if any, are an important part of these calculations along with MANY other variables.
The UBC portion of the report is primarily an action plan for the upcoming months. The Committee is waiting for the budget numbers before it makes formal recommendations. The next task for the UBC will be to develop estimates of cost savings, if any, associated with the realignment option presented by EPPC as well as other possible consolidation/realignment options.
All three parts of this report are preliminary. We do not know at this time, and likely will not know for several months yet, what the magnitude of the reductions in ECU’s state appropriations will be. We do know that the University will see a significant reduction in our budget in the next two years. This is on top of the substantial reductions we have dealt with over the past decade. We also know that we are not likely to return to previous funding levels even when the State’s economy recovers. Because of these realities, it is imperative that we explore all available options for reducing our budget, and most of these options are not pleasant. All faculty, staff, administrators, students, programs, departments, schools, and colleges are an integral part of what defines ECU. This is what makes answering questions of “What, if anything, are we going to cut?” and “Why should we do that instead of cutting something else?” so difficult. However, we as members of the University community need to address and seek answers to these questions, for if we do not we run a significant risk that these decisions will be imposed on us from outside the institution as has happened elsewhere.
Chancellor Ballard will appoint a new Program Prioritization Committee (PPC) to recommend changes and long-term cuts based on the prioritization guidelines developed by the EPPC and reorganization plans with associated budget savings developed by EPPC and other campus groups. The PPC membership will consist of about 10 or 11 members, including faculty and administrators representing many campus constituencies. If the University’s budget cut and tuition restrictions are not extreme, the PPC will have three months or longer to formulate their recommendations; however, if the University budget cuts are larger than expected, the recommendations of the PPC may be on an accelerated timeline.
Universities across the state and the country all face the same issues. At some universities, the cuts and reorganizations are being dictated by their administration with little or no faculty input. ECU does not work like that. We have a strong tradition of shared governance at ECU. The faculty and administration work together to solve our most difficult problems, and this budget crisis is no exception. The scenarios we must explore are difficult. We are talking about jobs, programs, and students, all of which are important. You can participate by joining the discussion. Post comments on this site. Attend budget forums. Send an E-mail to the Chair of the Faculty or the Chairs of the EPPC or UBC. Discuss realignment options with your unit faculty colleagues and your unit administrator. Let’s hear from you!