Budget 2010

February 9, 2009

Dear Faculty and Staff,

I would like to give you some more details about some of the academic issues that President Barker outlined in his communication last Friday. I know that there are a great number of rumors and a lot of fear on campus at this time—(just turn on the TV and you will see the same type of fear and anger playing out in almost every public and private sector.) I, like you, feel like we have a pot that is boiling and we would all like to turn down the heat so we can get back to our scholarly pursuits and our students!

As Jim Barker points out, we have worked hard over the past few months to look for ways to cut our budget without damaging quality and the very essence of Clemson and you have been a big part of passing along suggestions to both Jim and me and to the task forces. However, the more time that drifts by as we try to make the best use of what you are telling us, the more time there is for you to speculate and worry. We have already identified major principles/strategies for addressing our “budget cuts.” These include:

  • No additional cuts to core academic faculty and staff
  • Significant cuts to administration and support areas
  • Deferring facility and infrastructure projects

Because this has been a period of great financial challenge and uncertainty I, together with your deans, threw many ideas out there for you and the task forces to contemplate—many of them difficult to deal with and perhaps even unnecessary given the passage of time and further analysis of our situation that has led to a more solid plan. Now, from what I am seeing and hearing, most of the task force reports will help us to fine tune our major strategies and will provide us with ideas about how to be more efficient and how to generate revenues in the future. The recent Faculty Survey results will also help us to identify and fix what is not working so that we can together chart a better future course for faculty, staff and students. This includes issues of administrative costs, research support, graduate student support, teaching rewards, international faculty and student support, as well as GAD, FAS and HR practices.

So, here are some of the details about where we are….

1.    As Provost of the University, I now have total support from Jim Barker and the Budget Task Force to make academics the number one priority. We are not going to fire, RIF or otherwise reduce the academic faculty and staff who are important in our classroom teaching and research efforts. This includes our lecturers, who although not tenured and thus most vulnerable (and therefore also the most worried), are some of our most valuable teachers. Our students have told us this over and over again during the past few months of deliberation. The press reported that letters might be sent to lecturers notifying them that they might not be retained, but no letters have been sent and will not be sent as any part of a plan to cut costs. This part of the core experience for our students will be protected.

2.    As we contemplated ways to cut costs, I suggested that we look at our curriculum, including General Education. Some new and intriguing ideas have come from the curriculum task force, but it is evident from the open faculty forum on this issue, that a great deal more discussion must take place around this issue. The curriculum belongs to the faculty and you have spoken. It is obvious that this is not the way to “cut costs.” Instead, we should look at up-dating our general education curriculum primarily to improve the quality of the education we can offer our students. So, if we keep our entire general education curriculum, we will need the people to teach it—our lecturers and core faculty. This does not mean that we should ignore the need to look carefully at our curriculum to become more effective. Rumors abound about increases in teaching loads—not unless we unexpectedly lose too many faculty through attrition and retirements (see below) or we have an unprecedented increase in students. It is not about increasing teaching loads, but about distributing them appropriately and rewarding faculty for their work both in and outside of the classroom. I must depend on your department chairs to make the appropriate distribution of loads a reality while trying to stretch our dollars as far as we can. The more efficient we become in delivering our curriculum, including general education, and reassigning some PSA teaching functions, the more dollars there will be to fund other needs within your departments and colleges.

3.    As a way to cut costs and deal with the severe cuts for next year, we will not refill most vacant positions. Every year we have faculty and staff who retire or leave for a variety of reasons. Added to this, are our retirement incentive plans for PSA employees and, in the near future, a phased retirement plan for others. Normally, we replace those people who leave. This year we will not authorize replacements, unless critical to retaining the quality of our core educational experience. Let me assure you, however, that we will be re-investing in faculty, students and the core of academics after dealing with this current challenge.

4.    We have a number of retired faculty who have been hired back on a temporary basis—some of them critical to our teaching mission. Will they be let go? Yes, in some cases, until we determine whether they are needed yet again. In some areas where unexpected attrition takes place, we will need to hire back these valued and committed faculty and staff members until we can identify the recurring dollars to replace them on a permanent basis. Some of our research faculty are also back and are covered by their grants. They are an important part of this university and will be retained.

5.    Since “truth in advertising” is what we are all about here, I am also a hire-back, as are some other administrative staff whose knowledge is needed to run the university until we can attract, hire or train their replacements. Our time here is limited and we have all been asked to develop transition plans to share with you as part of our strategic plan for the future.

6.    Many of you have complained about the loss of dual employment opportunities. In some cases you have come to depend on this as a source of recurring salary. In the past three years, these costs tripled. We will need to reinstate some of our dual employment practices, but strategically where these practices actually save us dollars or generate significant net revenue. In other cases, workload or salary adjustments may be warranted. These adjustments will occur during the next few months as other changes take place.

7.    You have heard that we are looking at making more of our centers and institutes self-supporting. This is a recommendation that is being made by our task force on academic structures. Centers that exist to promote research should have the wherewithal to include salaries and other operating costs on grants. For some centers, this expectation may not be warranted. We will phase this in over the next three years.

8.    As our budget has been repeatedly cut during the current year, the return of generated revenue and unspent dollars from FY2008 has been deferred. These dollars were not swept and they did not disappear. Our hope is to release some of these dollars this spring, but we must be certain that we are positioned to get through to July without further cuts to departments. It would be disruptive to return these funds only to be forced to make significant additional cuts to departments during the remainder of the academic year. Your hard work generated these dollars and you will get them back as we determine that it is financially prudent.

9.    I will be making significant administrative cuts in salary, personnel and programs in academic affairs. I am finalizing these plans, and have support from Jim Barker and the Budget Task Force. I know that Jim Barker is making plans for the same types of cuts in the overall administration.
In summary, Clemson University is positioned to manage the effects of this unprecedented global financial crisis. Academics will remain our top priority. President Barker, the Board of Trustees and the Budget Task Force are all committed to this. What will be cut most is what is furthest from the core—administration and support costs. We will also cut new initiatives that come at the expense of core academic priorities.

You have done a lot of planning and have come up with some good suggestions (thank you!) about how to cut costs in each of your colleges. I encourage you to not abandon these ideas. Please continue to consider how you might become more effective and streamline what you do. I want to emphasize that the dollars you save can be reallocated to other functions in your department and college. The exercise that we have gone through over the past months has put everything under the microscope—that is healthy, although sometimes difficult and unpleasant. Let’s move forward from here in a positive way to fix what is broken, improve what we can and continue to improve for the sake of our students, staff, faculty and our University.

Doris Helms, Provost