UA's Transformation – $12 million "directly out of the hides of those who teach."

Where is the $12 million coming from?
Where is the $12 million coming from?

Yesterday, the Arizona Daily Star reported that the University of Arizona is earmarking $12 million to recruit “rising star” professors in the areas of environmental studies and biosciences. Reporter Becky Pallack was first told that the source of funds for that $12 was unknown. Her story was updated today with information from UA spokesperson Johnny Cruz, who said the money will come from “a variety of sources, including savings generated through other cuts, money made available due to federal stimulus dollars and existing money dedicated to research,” according to Pallack’s story.

Not to be nit-picky, but that isn’t a very specific answer. What EXACTLY are the sources? What “other cuts” specifically? And how exactly is UA going to use the federal stimulus dollars when UA administrators have said repeatedly that the stimulus dollars are only for two years and thus can’t really be used as permanent funds?

I’m someone who likes specifics. I think it is because I’m not the sharpest pencil in the box – I need things explained to me in minute detail so I can connect the larger dots. What I need, basically (and I think it is something UA students and their parents would appreciate, if not UA faculty and staff) is a flow chart that reads something like this:

  • $5 million from laying off 300 people in Departments X, Y, Z
  • $3 million from outside grants from X, Y, Z
  • $1 million from administrative savings by combining the secretaries and business managers from the colleges that were absorbed into the new Colleges of Arts, Letters and Sciences
  • $1 million from the tuition hike
  • $2 million from Federal Stimulus monies that we will eventually absorb with higher tuition

After reading Pallack’s story yesterday, I e-mailed UA President Robert Shelton asking where, specifically, the $12 million will come from, in light of the huge budget cut UA sustained last year and the massive mid-year tuition hike that was justified by UA administrators saying the university didn’t have enough money to operate.

He replied immediately, which is way cool because he’s a busy guy:

“I’ll check with our provost on the exact sources – overall this is part of our strategic planning (the “transformation”) where we invest in select areas.  You should also note the prior announcement about our investments in the humanities and social sciences – while not as large a number it is still significant.”

The investment into the humanities and social sciences Shelton mentions refers to a $300,000 faculty grant fund set up by Provost Meredith Hay in late August and $300,000 in graduate student fellowships funded by Hay’s office, Shelton’s office and the UA Foundation that is directed to faculty and grad students in the humanities, arts and social sciences. I’ll let you guys do the comparative math.

I thanked Shelton for his quick response and awaited reply of the exact source of the $12 million, but haven’t heard back. I called both his and Hay’s offices today at 1:30 today and left messages. If I get the details, I’ll share with readers here, but being a holiday weekend, I don’t anticipate that happening before Tuesday. But, in the meantime, I DID get an e-mail from a department head who said that the $12 million is coming “directly out of the hides of those who teach.”

Said department head mailed me from the department head’s private email, which seems unusual, although it does lend a little credance to the rumor of rampant paranoia of UA employees being discussed on the UA Defender blog/forum, as first reported Wednesday on Godblogging.

I’ve pasted the department head’s claim below, with the college acronyms translated in parentheses:

“The real story this fall is that the provost has announced sweeping redistributions of funds that massively hurt our ability to teach students. (Social and Behaviorial Sciences), the library, and (College of Humanities) got 7% cuts; (College of Science) and the professional schools got 2%. The 12 million initiative announced yesterday is coming directly out of the hides of those who teach, and these cuts will mean, straight up, that we will not be able to teach as many students, or as well.”

Obviously, it is just this person’s opinion that the cuts will mean fewer students will be served well, and we really won’t know until the end of the year which students, if any, are getting the short end of the stick. As for the differential cuts, Johnny Cruz is looking into that for me at this moment to get me a confirmation/denial as to if they happened and when.

No one likes getting his/her budget cut. I have sat with more than one unemployed person in the past month and watched the stress and despair eat them from inside out. But, the fact is, the state doesn’t fund education very well in Arizona. And, like any huge institution, there is no doubt waste in UA’s budget. The question is – where? The only way we, the public, would be able to tell, is if UA’s budget was completely transparent and written in easy to understand language. (A flow chart, I’m telling you! We need a flow chart!)

Is the $12 million earmarked for the science rock star profs really being pulled out of the backpockets of undergrads in an attempt to get more money for UA through the funds these rock stars can bring in through grants? Is there really tons of waste in the colleges that teach the most undergraduate students? Or could it lie in the expensive science labs courting the best professors and the best graduate students?

The sciences, in general, pull in more outside funding than, say, classical languages. And when you’re looking to shore up a state-decimated budget, you gotta get outside funding. If those millions brought in by sciences were then equally distributed across the campus to benefit all the students, that might be a good thing. But as it is now, outside funding tends to stay in the department/college that brought it in, be it ecology and evolutionary biology or poetry.

So, if things keep going this way (more funding for sciences, less for everything else), UA may become more a science/research institution and less a full-blown university. Is that a real threat? Maybe not. Maybe the state’s three universities need to divide up who does what. I’m just glad my anthropology-major, art-and-French-minor daughter is in her junior year at UA.

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17 thoughts on “UA's Transformation – $12 million "directly out of the hides of those who teach."

  1. “to recruit “rio one has to walk over to do it.
    sing star” professors in the areas of environmental studies and biosciences. Reporter Becky Pallack was first told that the source of funds for ”

    why, it is part of the green movement. one has to gt on the band wagon no matter who one has to walk over to do it.

    green is all that matters.
    green is all important.
    green …… green …… green

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  2. hanks for Renee’s blog above. The 12 Mil certainly is coming out of the hides of undergraduates, and SO is the 300 thousand for the grants to the humanities and social sciences.  Those grants, by the way, will be controlled by the provost’s office, all part of the moves to centralize power and money at the university.  
    the sciences do bring in grant money, as Renee said, but in reality the humanities and social sciences bring in more money than the sciences through the tuition dollars of the students they teach.  That money is taken away from those students who pay that tuition and given to research projects in the sciences–to professors who hardly ever talk to undergraduates.

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  3. Asking “where the $12M” comes from is a great rhetorical question, but the answer probably isn’t going to be too interesting. There’s a big budget, this is $12M from that budget — they can play the shell game as well as anyone.  Assuming you have $12M to spend on faculty, however, asking why you spend it in place X rather than Y is more revealing. When masses of students are majoring in the areas where cuts are being implemented, and a very small number of students are majoring in areas where $12M is being invested…  the priorities and goals for the future become pretty clear, no matter WHERE they claim the money comes from.

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  4. UA is schizophrenic because of the State Legislature – to a large extent it’s future is out of it’s control as the State continues its rivalry with Alabama.
    I’m not sure the 12 million will overcome the handicap of cutting benefits for gay families for instance – unless their goal is to attract only straight white christian scientists.
    Maybe they could make a deal with Regent University.

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  5. Good work citizen journalist! All of  us together may add up to some real investigative reporting that the dailies stopped funding ages ago.
    Would it not be wild if the circulation here exceeded the print edition of the Citizen because the reader can find more value in the research and fearless questions of the volunteer blogger?   The U of A  and downtown will provide enough for material for years to come.
    Since you are so fortunate to get such swift answers, can you help us find out the exact annual revenue from U of A parking? And how it is distributed?

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    1. Mike: would you like to learn how to file a Public Records Request so you, as a citizen and/or citizen journalist can get the information you seek out of public entities such as the UA? I can teach you how to do that, as could TC.com’s fearless editor, who is one of the kings of the public record pile in Tucson.

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      1. Thanks Rene, I will take you up on the offer. Even though I held a private investigator license for many years my records search were usually of a different order.  I do know that our University  is in need of a bit more vigilance.
        On a practical note. My wife and I  are being asked to move to Northern California by our grown children, so we can be there for the next round of grand-kids. They are U of A alumni who were not able to find gainful employment in Tucson. I thought we, TREO et al, were to have solved this dilemma in the past 30 years of  brick and mortar growth at the U of A.  How nice that we get to export our children out of State! Any answers to this?

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      2. Mike:
        email me at the contact me link and we’ll set something up re: public records. As far as answers to your kids leaving the state – AZ built itself on two industries – hospitality and construction. I don’t know how that’s changed lately. We have a backwards legislature that doesn’t fund education well, our schools have many issues, and we have a no-growth lobby that has stood in the way of TREO because people fear we’ll become Phoenix. For some reason, becoming Phoenix is a really bad thing. It is nice that your kids want you near them, though! 🙂

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  6. I applaud the U of A for charting a strategic course that leads students to the jobs of the future.  I haven’t forgotten though that my daughter paid a surcharge this year, partly because Gov. Brewer would not release stimulus funds in time to pledge against the schools annual budget.  Continue to excel on behalf of Arizona, but lower the cost of education for students.  You owe our students an apology and a refund for making them carry your bloated budgets on their backs.

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    1. This is a comment I heard this weekend from someone in the sciences at UA— what you are saying about charting a chart for the jobs of the future. That leads to a discussion about what a university is supposed to be: A technical institute that is basically about job training or a place to expand one’s mind, regardless of job prospects. UA is being pressured to provide grads in the high tech fields to draw (the theory goes) high tech jobs to the state to increase the economic engine – make the economic engine of the state more powerful.

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  7. As I said – schizophrenic.
    They want to attract high tech jobs, while at the same time doing everything they can to make the state inhospitable for minorities.
    As one native responded in another thread – if you don’t like it, go back to Massachusetts.
    Something tells me that high tech businesses will still be more likely to locate around MIT, where they will find a diverse educated workforce.
    If they want to attract chicken processing plants, they are doing a great job and what UA teaches is pretty irrelevant.

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  8. The reality on the ground around the U of A is larger class sizes, less access to instructors, a library that can’t afford to buy books, a culture of fear (who will get fired next?), and general confusion. 
    To someone who works here, this looks like another siphoning off of money so that it can go to the fields that are en vogue.  Keep in mind that the less sexy departments covered by Social Sciences and College of Humanities are bringing in tons of tuition money through gen-ed teaching.  It would be interesting to look at exactly how much of that money stays with its colleges and how much is swept away to fund so-called exciting new research.
    Also, I’m just about sick of people claiming that you can only get a job if you study some kind of science, as if investing in the sciences at UA had anything at all with your undergraduate education.  We’re talking about research dollars, people, not your child’s job-training.  Your chem 101 class will be no better because UA spends $12 million on up-and-coming new profs. 

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  9. Well said Sally.  The point that has been made is that the cuts will be made in larger fashion to colleges that do a lot of teaching.  The response, when confronting the administration, is that they are “working on” a tuition funds model of budget that will flow funds to those that produce credit hours. The problem…it is at earliest 3 years from implementation and some suggest as many as 5 years.  In the meantime, the three colleges hit most will have to struggle and cannot plan to create new initiatives that will attract dollars and students.  The morale is also too low to get faculty to want to create something great and exciting…especially when it may never really come to fruition and when the colleagues you work with to build it are leaving.

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    1. Dear Anon:
      Is there any document you could point me to – or a person at the UA – who could confirm the tuition funds model won’t be working for at least three years? Was there a meeting? I mean, I know about the tuition funds group – but it sounds likethere was some meeting recently where people were told the TF model wouldn’t be ready for a few years. And, btw, glad to see you reading the blog.
      renee

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  10. ANONs point above is right on.  I would talk to the Chair of SPBAC, Lynn Nadel, about when tuition flow will occur.  The discussion of when it will start, it is said, was at at SPBAC meeting.  I would also talk with any on the tuition flow task force itself….and maybe Dean’s Mitchnek and Wilder Bassett.

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