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President Bruininks’ e-mail points to a bad budget and primes U for cuts.

Last week, University President Bob Bruininks e-mailed faculty and staff an update on the University of MinnesotaâÄôs budget process. With the state continuing to bleed red ink, the University stands to see another funding cut next fiscal year, particularly given the administrationâÄôs largely lackluster attempt to drum up political and popular support. In his message, Bruininks warned of a further 2.75 percent cut to both academic and support units that already absorbed a larger cut this year. He also reaffirmed plans to increase tuition by 7.5 percent, though a portion of that will be offset this year by federal stimulus funds. In a welcome departure from past statements, however, there was acknowledgement of growing resistance to tuition increases. The budget cuts may require further reductions in staff or salaries. To the extent that staff furloughs must be implemented, they should be done in such a way as to impact students as little as possible. This will require focusing them away from front-line staff, teaching assistants and faculty and instead toward administration, managers and back-room functions. This weighting would help correct for massively unbalanced recent growth. In the past decade, administrative staff has grown by 75 percent while faculty increased by only 14 percent. This disparity means that administrative salaries are fully one-third the size of teaching salaries. Though any budget cut will be painful, the UniversityâÄôs leaders have a responsibility to implement it in a way that keeps the UniversityâÄôs essential focus on teaching intact.