Southeast Missouri State University President Dr. Ken Dobbins painted a bleak picture for the financial future of the state and university Tuesday afternoon.
"We're here because this is a major, major undertaking," he said during a presentation to faculty and staff in Academic Hall Auditorium.
As the university outlines $7.76 million in budget cuts during the next two years, the administration is turning to faculty and staff for feedback. The university held two forums Tuesday and there will be another meeting Wednesday. The auditorium was peppered with employees, who were informed of the meetings' agendas in a "Dear Colleagues" letter sent Monday.
"Every one of us will have to come together and work together," Dobbins said.
Following his presentation about the state and university budgets, Dobbins left the room along with members of the media, who were not permitted to stay. Dobbins said he did not want his or the media's presence to stifle the conversation among university employees.
University spokeswoman Ann Hayes said between 250 and 300 employees attended the morning forum, which went beyond the scheduled hour and a half. The second forum also ran about two hours long.
Faculty Senate Chair Dr. Stephanie Chamberlain, who attended the morning forum, said she heard more concerns than suggestions from meeting attendees.
"They're obviously concerned about the reduction of benefits," she said. Chamberlain is a member of the employee benefits subcommittee, one of eight set up to identify $2 million in cuts. The subcommittees will identify cuts to other area like athletics, academic programs and scholarships. They will report recommendations to the budget review committee, which helps draft the budget every year.
The university held similar brainstorming sessions in January 2009 to prepare for lower state support.
"It just seemed like many of the suggestions were not followed up on," Chamberlain said.
The budget review committee suggestions will be outlined at the March 25 Board of Regents meeting. Dobbins said the two-year plan will be finalized during fall semester.
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