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September 27, 2010

Dear Clemson,

As you know, the entire campus is engaged in strategic planning to determine Clemson’s path for the next 10 years.

We kicked off the process with a town meeting in late March, followed by meetings with college and division leaders. We posed a number of questions – some broad and others very specific – to help guide your thinking.

Your colleges and units have been working throughout the summer. Academic department visits by the mission vice presidents are under way right now.

Early reports indicate that you are coming up with some creative ideas. I’m very grateful for that, and for the spirit with which you have engaged this task.

Our goal is not simply to manage state budget cuts. It is to make transformational changes that will allow Clemson to thrive in a new economic environment as a more independently-funded public university.

How will we do that? How do we fund a plan in this environment?

Universities are particularly good at deciding where we would like to invest in new programs and big ideas. We’re also pretty good at generating new sources of revenue.

But we are not particularly good at divesting. The key to our future is to realize that, in order to invest, we’re also going to have to divest as well as generate new revenues going forward.

I know that this does not come naturally to us. But it is critical to our future, because we can no longer just go to Columbia with our hand out.

That’s why this whole planning process is not just about budget cuts: We have to divest beyond what is needed to manage budget cuts, if we want to invest in higher priorities.

The timetable calls for our plans to be completed by spring semester. However, as I have said previously, strategies will be implemented sooner if they are needed and if they are ready.

There is a need to move forward now with a number of actions in the Public Service Activities division (or PSA) and the College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences (which receives significant PSA funding).

These units have been on an accelerated planning timetable because of PSA state budget cuts. In order for them to manage current year budget cuts and – more importantly — develop meaningful departmental plans, budget reduction and restructuring strategies are being implemented.

The details of these strategies will be shared later today at meetings with faculty and staff in colleges and departments that are directly affected. Information also will be made available through Inside Clemson and our Clemson 2020 planning website.

Some guiding principles have been used to develop these plans. They are:

  1. Ensure that we have a viable, statewide PSA organization that supports the state’s number one economic sector — agriculture and natural resources. Make every effort to keep all county Extension offices and all Research and Education Centers open.
  2. Make every effort to minimize negative impact on faculty and staff by using attrition, voluntary separation incentives, reassignment or relocation to avoid layoffs. Always remember that we are dealing with people and families – and not just positions or FTEs.
  3. Ensure that academic realignments protect and enhance the educational experience of our students. Changes to degree programs must be phased or grandfathered so that students enrolled in those programs are given the opportunity to graduate on time.
  4. PSA will focus its remaining state dollars on the core mission of agriculture and natural resources research, Extension and regulatory programs. This means many valuable and important programs that have been supported by PSA will have to shift to other funding sources or reduce operations.

These are hard decisions, and they are not the last ones Clemson will have to make. Implementation of these changes will take time and patience. It is important that at the end of this process, we can say that Clemson is a better university, and that the Clemson family remains strong.

Thank you for participating in these important decisions, and for your hard work on behalf of Clemson University, our students and our stakeholders.

Jim Barker