President Elson S. Floyd restated the university’s commitment to WSU Extension programs during a speech to a statewide extension symposium Wednesday.
“Washingtonians depend on our university in a unique and special way,” said Floyd, referring to WSU’s status as the state’s land-grant university. “I am proud of that role.”
At the same time, he urged extension faculty, staff and volunteers to ”think boldly and creatively” about how to realign programs to reflect both the changing needs of consumers and the realities of an increasingly dire state budget outlook.
“The priority must be and should be program delivery and development,” Floyd said. “We must be sure we are meeting citizen needs within our state.”
He said those changes will include the increased use of electronic means to deliver services where applicable.
In response to a question asked during the Q&A session following the speech, he said consolidating some offices also could be a possibility, while remaining mindful of the wishes of county governments that also support local extension programs.
Last month, the university presented preliminary budget scenarios to the Washington Senate, outlining how WSU might respond to cuts in state funding of 12 percent and 18 percent. In response to the possible reductions in public-service funding outlined in those scenarios, the president’s office received more than 300 e-mail messages opposing major cuts in extension programs, particularly 4-H.
“Our 4-H program is a fundamental part of what we do. 4-H is here; it will continue to be here,” Floyd said.
The president stressed the scenarios only outlined possible budget actions and no final decisions have been made. At the same time, he said everything must be on the table in dealing with budget cuts of this magnitude, and every part of the university will need to figure out how to operate more efficiently with fewer resources.
The president’s speech concluded the day-long conference, “Relentless Pursuit of a Healthier World,” that was broadcast from the Pullman campus to seven sites around the state. About 650 people attended.