Community reps discuss impact of proposed U budgets

Kari Petrie

Speakers at a University Board of Regents budget forum Tuesday said students, faculty and staff will shoulder too much of the financial burden under upcoming proposed school-year budgets.

University President Bob Bruininks and six regents heard opinions from 10 community representatives on the possible impact of the proposed 2003-04 and 2004-05 budgets.

Facilities Management employee Dan Rivera told the panel the University made bad decisions when reorganizing Facilities Management. Instead of cutting regular staff, the University should have looked at eliminating management positions.

Rivera said he was “highly disgusted” by the loss of staff positions. Facilities Management eliminated 104 positions this year as a result of budget cuts.

Minnesota Student Association President Eric Dyer said the University needs to pay attention to the strain higher tuition puts on students.

“Students feel one common emotion over the budget situation – it’s not anger – it’s fear,” he said.

Dyer said students are worried about how to pay for rent, groceries and car insurance, and increasing tuition only heightens fears.

Jacob Elo, student representative chairman to the board, echoed those feelings. He encouraged the board not to continue putting the financial burden on students.

“We’ve done our part,” Elo said.

Todd Powell, president of the Graduate and Professional Student Assembly, said Gov. Tim Pawlenty’s proposed high-tuition and high-aid model hurts graduate and professional students. These students do not receive state grants.

Powell said the model will make the University’s graduate and professional programs less competitive because of the high tuition.

Dan Feeney, chairman of the Faculty Consultative Committee, said faculty and staff morale is a concern because of increasing workloads. In balancing its budget, the University eliminated nearly 520 faculty and staff positions.

Feeney questioned how far the “corporatization” of the University should go. The University has an increasing dependence on outside funding from business and industry, he said.

“(Corporatization) has the potential to change the face of the institution,” Feeney said.

Increasing tuition will also affect the University’s ability to attract students, Feeney said.

Bruininks and the regents said they were grateful for the comments and would take them into consideration.

“We will work diligently to get student support,” he said.

Rivera, however, said he felt Bruininks and the regents were not listening to the speakers’ concerns.

“I don’t think they took anything seriously,” he said.

Kari Petrie covers the Board of Regents and administration. She welcomes comments at [email protected]