Pubslished January 29, 2010
On January 25th, 2010, President Fox addressed the St. Lawrence community with the report from the Recession Response and Planning Task Group; the scope and magnitude of the recommendations were, expectedly, significant. The university, like many other institutions of higher education, is facing a dire forecast of shrinking endowments and budgets stretched too thin. St. Lawrence is struggling with a hard-hit endowment coupled with a $5 million dollar annual deficit on its $110 million dollar operating budget.
The task group recommended a tremendous $3.6 million dollars in cuts in 2011-12 as well as a number of ways to bring revenue into the university. “Our [St. Lawrence’s] relative strength, however, does not absolve us from preparing ourselves to reduce our expense base, which also makes inevitable many significant adjustments in how we will budget and function in the coming years,” Fox said in his email.
The impending budget cuts are to affect those at every level of the university. “Ultimately, we understand that this undertaking must be one of shared sacrifice by all members of the St. Lawrence community across the University,” said the planning committee in their January 8th report.
Among changes to the budget are a salary and wage freeze for faculty and staff, a 2 percent cut in senior staff member’s salaries, and, in a bold move—Fox will take a 5 percent cut to his own salary in the coming year. Student employees are also to be reduced in numerous departments.
While the recommendations from the planning committee do not endorse large scale and immediate staff reductions, frequently used as a cost-saving method at other institutions, the committee advises that “we must reevaluate our current staffing structure with an eye toward making strategic reductions.” The committee asserts that each division should “carefully examine its staffing structure,” their savings goal for these cuts: $500,000.
The report goes on to advise that the university consider reducing its number of academic majors and minors and terminate some of its less-popular study abroad programs. “It has become apparent that our academic programs have grown at an unsustainable rate without adequate evaluation,” the planning committee said in their report.
These cuts, that could save money tomorrow, may jeopardize the future quality of the way the campus is run. Similarly, they made suggestions for limiting athletics, FYPs, SYEs, and abroad programs while simultaneously hoping to increase student enrollment, despite campus’s housing shortage. Understandably, the university’s hands are tied, but cutting programs and increasing enrollment are, seemingly, inversely related.
In his email, Fox called for a new way of addressing the expenses of higher education, he asks the whole community, students included, to come together with cost saving ideas. These cuts may be devastating to some, and may seem difficult to cope with when the Pub isn’t open for your late night munchies or being charged for cable television, but they are perhaps necessary in these frugal times. We urge that anyone with ideas do their part, read the email from Fox for themselves and attend the forums for discussions.