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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Mass Media

UMB Administration and Finance Departments Eye Budget Cuts

UMass Boston will reduce its budget by nearly $25 million this year, in response to Governor Deval Patrick’s call for action amid growing deficit concerns. University administrators are now in the process of determining where best to cut costs.

Governor Patrick announced on October 15th that the Commonwealth of Massachusetts’ budget is out of alignment by a staggering $1.4 billion. In an effort to combat the imbalance, he issued a series of 9C budget reductions-cuts which are made mid-fiscal year-requiring state agencies to reduce their expenditures by as much as 7 percent, including the Department of Higher Education.

This begs the question: Where will students feel the crunch?

Among the more alarming possibilities is staffing, a bigger concern than many students realize. The American Federation of Teachers has noted a trend in decreased tenure-track and full-time teaching positions in colleges and universities, which, according to Associate Director Craig Smith, is “becoming a long-term staffing strategy” for many institutions.

Colleges, faced with decreasing state investment-which reached an all-time low in 2005-are forced to reduce costs in order to maintain operations. In many cases, the teaching staff bears the brunt.

“The odds of being taught by a full-time or tenured professor in the first two years of college are actually pretty rare these days,” said Smith, noting that the first year in particular is the most critical for student retention.

Moreover, he said a decrease in full-time faculty can have a negative impact on the quality of higher education.

“The quality of the faculty isn’t in question,” Smith reassured, “but they [faculty staff] face lower wages and job security, and less ability to conduct research. You simply can’t expect the same results.”

However, according to Governor Patrick’s press secretary for education Jonathan Palumbo, the Governor’s office has “made every effort to not make reductions to programs that directly effect students and families”.

“[The Governor’s office] has advised schools to make reductions to operations and infrastructure budgets, and non-faculty staff,” said Palumbo.

Ellen O’Connor, Vice Chancellor for Administration and Finance at UMass Boston, echoed this sentiment and said that her department “is working diligently to increase the number and proportion of full-time, tenure-track faculty at UMB”.

As for scaling back on spending, she urged the campus community to help reduce costs by other means.

“For instance,” she said, “we [UMB] spend about $6 million a year on electricity. Unplugging appliances, turning off computers, these are good, simple ways to help,” O’Connor said.

Starting today, Chancellor Motley will hold open forums on the ongoing budgetary exercise, seeking feedback from the student body.

“We want this to be a very inclusive process,” said O’Connor, who has already enlisted the help of the undergraduate student government and other student organizations.

O’Connor encouraged students and their families to get involved and voice their opinions on how best to manage a tightening budget without diminishing the quality of education.

For more information on this and related issues, visit the American Federation of Teachers at www.aftface.org, and check your email for upcoming messages from the Chancellor on ways to get involved in the budgeting process.