Dear members of the university community:
I first want to thank the more than 700 of you who attended last week’s Town Hall meeting at University Park or participated remotely from the Biscayne Bay Campus. Your thoughtful engagement makes our university stronger and our collective efforts more fruitful.
For those who were not able to attend, I will briefly summarize the meeting and highlight the steps we are proposing the university takes in an effort to confront this crisis in ways that make us stronger.
First, some good news: Thanks to the hard work of our Governmental Relations team, headed by Vice President Stephen Sauls and Assistant Vice President Michelle Palacio, the dedication of Founding Dean John Rock and the support of so many of our alumni, board members and friends, the state Legislature agreed to fully fund our College of Medicine appropriation of $11 million recurring. Legislators recognized that through the creation of a strong biomedical industry and the improvement of healthcare in our community we can hope to lift ourselves out of this crisis. Our College of Medicine and its by-products will be one of the economic engines of that recovery.
Legislators also agreed to exempt university employees from a proposed two percent cut to state workers’ salaries and approved an eight percent tuition increase for undergraduate students and up to seven percent in an additional differential tuition increase.
They also steered $14 million in stimulus funds our way, helping us bridge a crippling budget gap. But as I emphasized during the Town Hall, this stimulus money is but a temporary fix. We cannot become dependent on it because it will disappear within two years. Therefore, we must follow the multi-year budget reduction plan that has worked so well for us in the past.
Along with interim Provost Douglas Wartzok and interim Senior Vice President of Administration and Chief Financial Officer John Miller, I outlined our three-year proposal to reduce the budget. Details of this plan are available in the slide presentation we delivered at the Town Hall meeting.
Although our budget for next fiscal year is not as catastrophic as we once feared, we certainly did not leave Tallahassee unscathed. We, like our sister universities, will see a 15 percent drop in recurring General Revenue since the Legislature approved a 4 percent cut in a Special Session just last January. Units were already planning to reduce their 2009-10 budgets by $8.2 million in response to the 2008 legislative cuts. Now they will have to reduce their budgets an additional $11.4 million to respond to the 2009 legislative cuts. This is a total of $19.6 million in one year and a planned total reduction of $53.3 million by 2012.
We now must make some difficult decisions on program consolidations and closures. These proposals are going through a review process that includes discussions at the Faculty Senate, the Budget Stabilization Committee and, of course, Monday’s Town Hall meeting. You will see on page 13 of the presentation that we have identified 19 programs for closure. As with the program closures we announced last year, these programs will be phased out to allow current students the opportunity to finish the program.
In making proposals for cuts on the academic side, we had to consider several criteria, including whether the program fit in with FIU’s strategic plan, the return on investment, the cost, the faculty investment and Ph.D. production. As we discuss these proposals, please keep in mind that they are not reflective of the quality of the programs that have been recommended for closure or consolidation with other programs. Our academic programs are strong, but in our current financial situation we have to make tough choices that will preserve our core and help us emerge from this crisis a stronger, more focused university.
We had several members of the community speak on behalf of the Department of Religious Studies. The speakers were thoughtful and passionate. Their perspective is being taken into account and as we said before, if sources of revenue are identified, we are open to reconsider.
On the non-academic side we evaluated programs and units based on how essential they were to the operation of our university and our strategic projects. As a result, some services will be reduced, others will change the way they operate and some will be eliminated.
As we have discussed throughout this process, we did not want to make across-the-board cuts that would weaken our university as a whole. With this strategy we preserve to the greatest extent possible the quality of our remaining programs, services and units and are able to continue moving forward as a university that aspires to be one of the top urban public research universities in the nation.
The Faculty Senate will make its recommendations today and the Board of Trustees will hold a budget workshop on June 1. They will make their final decision on June 12.
Please continue to share your thoughts by sending me an email message at firstname.lastname@example.org. Your input can make a difference.
Modesto A. Maidique