March 12, 2009
Dear Clemson Faculty and Staff:
The Board of Economic Advisors met yesterday (Wednesday) and lowered its state revenue estimates by 1 percent for both the current fiscal year and for FY09-10. I write to remind you that the cuts we have already made this year anticipated this reduction and any others that are likely between now and June 30. So don’t worry that there will be more furlough days this fiscal year or anything like that. There won’t be. All of our planning is focused on the fiscal year that begins July 1.
Earlier this week, I met with both the Faculty Senate and the Staff Senate to talk about this planning. We had a very open and healthy discussion. It was good to hear the questions and comments from both groups, and I want to share with you some of what I said to them.
I deliberately did not begin by talking about the budget crisis, because I wanted us to remind ourselves what we are facing AND what we are NOT facing.
Clemson is a very good university. It is, in fact, one of the top-ranked public universities in the nation. If you don’t trust the rankings, just ask the marketplace: We will have 20,000 applications for our undergraduate and graduate programs this year. Clemson has a very strong reputation, and universities with strong reputations tend to be very resilient in recessions.
We have achieved this recognition not because we are out-spending other institutions. It’s because of what you are doing – the faculty, staff, students and administrators of Clemson University. Your hard work, creativity, productivity and sheer can-do attitude is the reason for our success. We need to celebrate your achievements.
I ask you, then, to remember that Clemson does not have a quality crisis. We do not have an enrollment crisis. We do not have a faculty productivity crisis. We do not have a leadership crisis. We do not have a reputation crisis.
What we have is a state funding crisis. It is big, but that’s all it is. We have to deal with it, but we will do so in a way that does not create another crisis. We will cut our budgets, but in ways that protect the gains we have made.
I did not present a plan this week for meeting our state funding crisis, because there isn’t one yet. There is no “secret plan.” Rather, I explained how we are approaching the challenge.
- We will cut from the outside in, with administrative and support areas taking a larger share of the cut so that we can protect the academic core – which is about quality in the classroom, the laboratory and the field – the places where we interact directly with our most important constituents, especially our students.
- We will act in accord with the Faculty Manual. Any recommendations related to the curriculum, academic calendar or other core academic matters will go through existing, faculty-driven processes.
- We will try to protect people through reassignments as well as elimination of vacant positions. We are doing all we can to avoid layoffs, but this may mean people are asked to do different jobs or different duties within the same job.
- All Clemson areas will participate in the budget plan, just as we did this year. We will protect the core, but “protect” does not mean “exempt.” Faculty positions will be refilled very selectively. Athletics will contribute. Student fees will play a role. The task force recommendations will have an impact. It will take a combination of all to meet this challenge.
I know that you are waiting for the next shoe to drop, and unfortunately, we will have to wait a little longer. We don’t expect to have our budget plans for next year finalized until closer to the end of the semester.
It would be irresponsible to develop a firm budget sooner — at this time in the current environment. We don’t know what our state appropriation will be. We don’t know how the S.C. Senate will handle the federal stimulus funding. We don’t know how many people will accept the retirement incentives. We don’t know what our enrollment yield will be in this economic environment. We cannot make good decisions with this many variables at play. We could either cut too much or not enough — and neither would be good or wise.
I closed by again thanking Bryan Simmons and Dave Crockett for their leadership this year. It has been a difficult year to be president of the Faculty Senate and Staff Senate, and each has done an outstanding job of making sure your voices were heard and your priorities were made known.
We look forward to working with Bill Bowerman and Tim Drake beginning in April and, like you, I’m looking forward to a short Spring break next week. If your plans include travel, have a safe journey and a renewing break from your normal routine. Marcia and I will be spending ours with our first grandchild, Madeline, who was born this week.
— Jim Barker