University Of Wyoming Draft Plan For Budget Reductions Show Cuts Across The Board

Oct 30, 2020

Officials at the University of Wyoming have announced their draft proposal in response to a $42 million budget cut. It includes potential impacts to seven different colleges on campus, athletics, and positions, most of which are currently unfilled. Wyoming Public Radio's Catherine Wheeler spoke with UW interim Provost Anne Alexander. First, Alexander laid out what's included in the draft plan.

Anne Alexander : So on the academic side, primarily, what we are going to do at this time is take faculty positions that we were going to hire next year or in the coming year that resulted from resignations or retirements, and we are just pulling those back in and making them part of the budget cut. In addition, we are going to be less able to hire new graduate students for graduate teaching assistant positions, graduate research positions, and postdoctoral and graduate administrative assistant positions. On the administrative side, that runs the gamut from athletics, to finance and administration, to internal audit. There will be about 35 budgeted positions that will be eliminated. Housing, dining, catering, conferences will be reorganized within the administrative side. Athletics is lowered salaries. So that's where we're at really right now.

Catherine Wheeler: The proposal lists a couple of programs or degrees that could be cut. Could you explain a little bit about what went into that decision making...like I know some people could be upset about the MFA program creative writing getting cut?

AA: So I will quickly summarize that they have not been cut at this time. They're up for a review. And so we're doing a number of different kinds of reviews and the coming months is called a university regulation 213 review, which is our regulation that governs reorganization, consolidations, discontinuances of academic programs. That process is what kicked off this week. It's not that we have said MFA is gone as of today. What we are saying is we are going to have the MFA and all of the other things that are in that list, undergo a review that will last up to 120 days. And at the end of January, that process will conclude internally on campus where a review process will go into all of the details of not just the numbers but also the strategic strengths and weaknesses and opportunities of each of those programs and each of those proposals, and then we will make a recommendation to the trustees in their February meeting, as to whether any of those programs should be eliminated, or consolidated or reorganized. The particular list for that type of review was pulled together based on recommendations from the various colleges around low enrollment programs, programs that are not well used, or programs where the faculty sustainability was not there.

CW: When you were formulating these reductions was there any kind of consistent theme or like running idea when you were thinking about what to cut?

AA: Well, I think the theme that continuously comes up is that we need to find a way to- first of all, because the biggest lever that we could pull was taking all of those empty faculty positions. That is a terribly non-strategic thing to do. But it's the only thing that we have at the moment. But what we heard consistently was that we can't just do this, and then sit back and go, okay, well, that's done. First of all, we know there are probably more cuts coming. But secondly, we have consistently over the past several years in taking this, the previous budget cuts have been fairly non strategic at this time, as well. And so what that has led to is very shallow departments around the academic enterprise where there are only one or two people that are specialists in a given area. And it just puts a really a lot of strain on our staff and on our faculty.

CW: When formulating these cuts, are these for the long term or can they come back?

AA: We're not going to get this money back from the state. So we have a smaller number of resources, we can't do the same thing. We can't do more with less, we can't do less, we can't do the same thing with less, we have to do less with less. So this is kind of just the first wave of programs that were identified. There may be others that will be identified later, probably by March. That's why we need to be more strategic and look at ways of expanding our own revenue sources, grant funding, donor funding, corporate partnerships, those kinds of things, just primarily because the state has been incredibly generous with us. In this, this cut is not because they do not wish to have a strong university that simply because the state's revenues are also down.

CW: You mentioned the likelihood of further cuts coming. Do we have a number or what that could potentially look like?

AA: Yeah, so I don't know what the amount will be. We haven't gotten a bill. But, it's been rather clearly telegraphed to us that it's likely that we will have to have another cut, simply because the state just doesn't have the money. So the magnitude I don't know, but I will say there's nothing, there's no fat left. And so at this next stage, what we are going to have to do is look at those academic programs, which is part of why we need to start that process as soon as possible so that we can start identifying the programs that we cannot sustain, that we cannot do anymore. It's going to come down to that because most of the money in a University's budget is in people. Next time, there's not much else toat for us coming. So it will have to be more on the academic side. So that will mean fewer classes, it will mean fewer student services, it will mean that we will have to eliminate programs.

CW: So the proposal is due to the Board of Trustees on November 1, and then they'll discuss it at the November meeting. And then if approved, that will kick off this review?

AA: They will say okay, your plan for managing the cuts that we are currently having to manage through just basically right now, they will say okay, we like this plan,the plan is good, go ahead. And they will also pull out whether or not those particular programs should be reviewed, whether there are more whether there are different ones. But our proposal, we hope, is something that they will take to their counsel and, make a decision from there. This is not easy. This is tough. And it's incredibly tough during a pandemic to do this. I know, everybody's been working so hard at the university for so long. The past seven months have been justfull on complete efforts, people just giving their all. And so it's really tough to follow all that great work up with this. It's really tough, but it has to be done. Because the resources just aren't there anymore.

CW: Anne Alexander is the interim Provost at the University of Wyoming. Thanks, Anne for taking the time.

AA: Thank you, Catherine, it was great to talk to you.