PULLMAN, Wash. – The administration’s proposal to merge the College of Liberal Arts and the College of Sciences drew the majority of questions at the Washington State University budget forum Friday.
President Elson S. Floyd and Provost and Executive Vice President Warwick M. Bayly fielded a number of questions about budget reduction plans.
Floyd said the combined arts and sciences model is used at 60 percent of land-grant universities and 50 percent of public universities nationwide.
“It is a college model that has proven time and time again to be successful,” he said.
Faculty members, graduate students and staff raised concerns about the effect that the reorganization could have on education and fundraising within the combined college.
One question concerned whether the university had provided sufficient information to judge how the proposed merger would produce cost savings.
Floyd said that while he and the provost had made preliminary determinations of sources of savings through the merger, he did not want to get ahead of the process and make it appear that the change was a “fait accompli.” He said he and the provost had met with College of Sciences faculty and would be meeting with liberal arts faculty later Friday for more detailed discussions of the impact of the change and how it might be implemented.
Another questioner raised the issue of whether, if the deans of the respective colleges came up with proposals to produce similar cost savings on their own, the merger could be avoided.
The president said he is open to suggestions, but any alternate cost-saving proposals would have to be consistent with the overall principles of the budget reduction, which include no elimination of academic programs or filled faculty positions.
Bayly said the proposed configuration of arts and sciences could provide greater opportunities for collaboration and interdisciplinary learning, as the university seeks to restructure in light of bleak economic forecasts.
In light of continuing cutbacks in the university’s state allocation, Floyd said, there are only three ways to respond cutting academic programs, consolidating units of the university or increasing independent revenue streams.
He said the university is having success in fundraising through the Campaign for WSU, is increasing its research grants because of the continued productivity of faculty, and is increasing tuition revenue through higher rates and increased enrollments. However, the resulting revenue does not replace the 52 percent cut in state allocation that the university has seen in the past four years.
As state revenue forecasts continue to erode, WSU has been asked by the state to prepare for possible further cuts of 5 percent and 10 percent in its state allocation. Those cuts could be implemented later this fiscal year.
In response to a question, Floyd said he did not want to speculate on how those cuts might be made, in part because any future cuts will be based on the steps the university takes to implement this round of reductions.
Details on the budget plan, the Powerpoint presentation the president used at Friday’s session and a link for giving feedback on the budget are available through the University Budget Office page at http://budget.wsu.edu.
The administration plans to continue to gather feedback in upcoming weeks and to formulate a budget that will go into effect in early October.