Southeast board of regents votes on budget cuts today

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Academic degree programs that draw few students could get the budget ax today when the board of regents votes on cost-cutting moves.

Besides academic cuts, the regents will consider trimming expenses in nonacademic areas including athletics, a voluntary early retirement plan for tenured faculty members in programs targeted for cuts, and a severance package in the event tenured faculty members are fired as a result of the cuts, university officials said.

School president Dr. Ken Dobbins refused to publicly disclose his recommendations to the board in advance of today's meeting, saying he didn't want to discuss proposals that the regents might change.

"It would create more havoc," he said.

But Dobbins said his recommendations involve cutting some teaching and nonteaching positions.

School officials still were ironing out details of a proposed retirement plan Wednesday afternoon that Dobbins hopes will encourage tenured faculty members in affected programs to retire rather than be fired.

Tenured faculty eligible for the program would have to retire by May 31, 2005, he said.

The budget-cutting moves are designed to address a $1.45 million revenue shortfall caused by cuts in state spending.

Dobbins has estimated $1 million might be cut from academic operations through program cuts, curriculum changes, faculty retirements and staffing changes.

The rest of the cost savings would come from nonacademic cuts, including the possible restructuring of campus vending services and efforts to boost revenue for such items as KRCU radio and student health services.

Most of the nonacademic job cuts would take effect by next summer, if the regents approve the plan, Dobbins said. Tenured teaching positions wouldn't be cut until after the spring 2005 semester, he said.

Don Dickerson, president of the board of regents, said budget cuts have to be spread across academic and nonacademic areas, including athletics.

Dickerson added that faculty salaries are a major expense at the university, and the regents must look at cutting some teaching jobs to garner significant budget savings.

"I think we are trying to get as lean as we can," he said.

Dobbins will recommend academic cuts from among 18 academic programs reviewed by a faculty committee this fall. Geography, physics, philosophy, economics and anthropology were among the programs reviewed.

All of the scrutinized academic programs had fewer than 27 majors on average over the past three years and most have graduated less than five students in a school year.

mbliss@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 123

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