Faculty, departments worried about admin cuts

Faculty, departments worried about admin cuts

Christopher Aadland

As the University of Minnesota’s plan to cut $90 million in administrative costs enters its third year, some are worried the cuts will begin to impact faculty members in departments and colleges.
 
In the first years of President Eric Kaler’s initiative to cut costs following criticism from lawmakers and the media over alleged administrative bloat, many cuts were relatively easy to make because they involved retiring faculty members and not filling job openings. But with three years left in the initiative, deciding which areas to cut has some faculty leaders worried reductions might harm their departments’ abilities to teach and do research.
 
After this year, the University will have cut about 64 percent of its planned $90 million cost reduction. Slashing the remaining 36 percent needed to reach Kaler’s goal will be more difficult to achieve than it has been to get this far, University Chief Financial Officer Richard Pfutzenreuter said.
 
Unlike the first two years of the initiative, he said, the reallocations will be tougher now that easy reductions — like eliminating unneeded positions or hiring younger workers and paying them less — have been made.
 
Rebecca Ropers-Huilman, outgoing chair of the University’s Faculty Consultative Committee, said many of the Twin Cities’ campus deans and department chairs met with members of the committee, and some expressed concern that they would be forced to make hard decisions because of cuts to administrative spending in their departments.
 
Ropers-Huilman presented those concerns to the Board of Regents in June.
 
“While reallocation efforts were intended to move toward operational excellence and administrative efficiency, units are now faced with the reality of having to cut resources from their core mission of teaching, research and outreach,” she said at a June board meeting.
 
Decisions that could be cumbersome to faculty members may be on the horizon, like doing work that administrative staff previously did, said Colin Campbell,
incoming chair of the Faculty Consultative Committee and associate professor of pharmacology.
 
Concerns over the use of savings from administrative costs have been brought up more than once this year. During this spring’s Minnesota legislative session, lawmakers in the House of Representatives’ higher education committee questioned whether University administrators were reapplying savings to appropriate areas, such as lowering costs for students.
 
Administrative cuts could include slashing advisor and leadership positions and support staff, Pfutzenreuter said. But he said defining “administration” is difficult.
In the end, Pfutzenreuter said, deans themselves decide which cuts to make, once their schools receive their allocated funding from the University system.