A balanced approach to budget cuts was the main suggestion in a letter sent to incoming University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols and the UW Board of Trustees President Dave Palmerlee by the UW Academic Dean’s Council.

“Our message was, ‘Yes, this is a necessary part of what’s needed in this budgetary climate,’” College of Education Dean Ray Reutzel said. “But, on the other hand, there is a whole host of tools both the state and the university can look at for revenue generation that can make a balanced approach.”

The letter outlines the deans’ concerns about likely budget reductions, although they don’t know exactly how deep the cuts could be.

“It’s rough territory we’re going through now,” Reutzel said. “None of us know what we’re going to be working with.”

The introduction explains the overall negative mood shared by many people on campus.

“Over the past six months, the narrative about the future of the university communicated to the faculty and staff has been overwhelmingly melancholy,” the letter states. “No organization can long survive and thrive in such an environment of pessimism. At some point, university and state leadership has a responsibility to recognize that if the university and state are to survive and thrive, a more balanced narrative is needed — one that acknowledges the economic realities and difficulties but also one that points the way to optimistic solutions. As Winston S. Churchill once said, ‘A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees opportunity in every difficulty.’”

Eight deans signed the letter sent Monday, which listed several ideas to either save costs or gain revenue.

“We wanted to present to them some ideas that they might not have thought about,” College of Health Dean Joe Steiner said. “This is us trying to work together with some of these issues.”

Early retirement incentives, outsourcing certain university functions like maintenance and food services and increasing program fees and tuition were some of the suggestions in the letter.

However, opening a discussion about the funding situation was also a major goal, possibly more so than any of the listed suggestions, Steiner said.

“We wanted to start a dialogue with the new president and the Board of Trustees about the decline in state funding,” he said.

While the deans have been in contact with Nichols and the Trustees, some of the key focuses of the letter were not addressed, College of Engineer Dean Michael Pishko said.

“Some of the discussions we’ve had have been more focused on the downturn in revenue but not so much on the plan to address it,” he said. “The purpose of the letter was to say, ‘We understand there’s a downturn. Let’s start talking about ways to address it.’”

Palmerlee said he’s happy to have the deans involved.

“I think this is a wonderful expression of the academic leadership of the university — of their desire to maintain and build on the excellence of the university while facing these difficult choices,” he said.

A response from Nichols and Palmerlee thanks the deans for the letter and their openness for joint discussions, which is what College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Dean Frank Galey wanted.

“I think the main thing we wanted Dr. Nichols to know is, we’re willing to work with her to get on top of this and are on top of this,” he said.

Pishko has been through a similar budget situation before and wants to make sure his knowledge and experience can be useful.

“There are a lot of things the university can do to address the reductions now and into the future,” he said. “A lot of us have experience doing this. I worked with a 10 percent cut for personnel funding in one year at Texas A&M University during the financial crisis of ’08-’09.”

This experience and all of the other messages relayed in the letter shows Palmerlee a strong partnership is just beginning, he said.

“I was thrilled to see the deans say, ‘We understand what needs to be done, and we’re going to be in the harness pulling with the administration and the board to get these things done,’” he said. “I think I can speak for the board that we welcome their active participation in working and solving these problems, and so does Dr. Nichols. I think this is just the start of a much more solid relationship.”

(10) comments

waitasec

Translation: "Please don't fire me. I like my $200K annual paycheck."

clipper

Even though I only teach one fill-in-the-blank studies course.

Entropy

Waitasec is always complaining about how much money other people make. Seems to me, if you were qualified, you'd be making one of those figures. That's how life works. What conclusion can we draw from this? You're probably making about what you're worth. You could work to improve that situation, or you could be a petulant little whiner.

Then there's poor old clipper. Deans generally don't teach clipper. They are administrators with full slates, a lot of meetings, and a fair bit of travel. They hire and direct the people that actually teach (and do research, and perform service). But, of course you knew that.

clipper

Sounds like entropy is either teaching one of those fill-in-the-blank studies courses or has a course load of fill-in-the-blank studies courses and will be a student debt slave for life.

waitasec

Uh, no...Deans do not do research nor do they do "service". They are administrators and politicians, lobbying for the President's ear, looking for the next big opportunity to make themselves look like a hero.

Rachel Stevens

There's actually quite a bit of variation among deans. Some continue to teach because they love teaching. Some continue to do research. Of course their workload changes dramatically and that makes it difficult to continue teaching or doing research at the same level. You can view their CVs on the website, and that gives you a timeline of their publications, conference presentations, courses taught, etc. It doesn't make much sense to make a blanket statement here though.

Matthew Brammer

I wouldn't hesitate to put my workload and community contribution/impact up against a dean's ANY day and see how it stacks up. Yet, I get paid about 175k less per year.

I don't agree that the deans are overpaid, Entropy, but your logic doesn't fly here. Find a different line of reasoning before we go down a convoluted rabbit hole. Nobody....NOBODY I've ever met is paid what they're worth...one way or the other.

bobvila

Understand that the salaries at UW, large, small, and everything in between, are the backbone of this community whether you like it or not. You can talk about impact, you can talk about teaching and research...not everyone at UW fits in those pigeon holes. There are Deans, there are profs, there are staff that support the Deans and the profs in tedious and menial jobs that don't pay much, and there are student workers. All of these people are your neighbors, they're your friends, and they're the same people that patronize businesses in this town. When the rubber meets the road, as UW goes, so goes Laramie.

Matthew Brammer

Except, when they don't.

Students rarely patronize my business, and student workers help pull business away from my business, and UW has begun to pull more and more business away from me. The majority of my business, most of the year, comes from people who don't even live here. So don't lecture me as to my obligations and how I'm supposed to "feel".

The University, through a number of different specific events and ways, directly caused me to have to fire 4 people. Ask them how they "feel".

The only thing UW-related that affects me at all is the football program, which is admittedly a huge boon to my business. I will digress there. But don't act as if the rest of the time, UW is some magical entity that has absolutely nothing but a positive impact on every single person in Laramie. There are plenty of caveats when it comes to UW's existence, and plenty of individuals whom it has negatively impacted.

bobvila

Mr. Brammer,

UW is no different than any other public university. Nearly all of them provide public transportation for their student body. That's a fact, not an opinion.

I never said UW is a magical entity and I know there are a lot of caveats, but let's try to avoid demonizing every employee at UW please? UW is the largest employer in Albany county. That is a fact and if the salaries and jobs dry up at UW, businesses in the city of Laramie and Albany county will undoubtedly notice. Taxi cab service...that's your deal and I respect that, but you can't pretend that a huge hit to UW won't effect most businesses here.

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