Administrators gave faculty just under two and a half hours to read over Mt. A’s proposed budget for next year before its presentation at senate, straining the relationship between faculty and administration even further.
The document, sent to faculty at 12:02 pm on April 1, contained several items that raised professors’ eyebrows.
Last Tuesday, after teaching a third-year history class, Owen Griffiths had just enough time to print out the proposed budget before hustling to the Wu auditorium for the 2:30 pm senate meeting.
“When we are hearing from our senior administrators, including the president, talk about the importance of consultation, then the reception of the budget a couple of hours before the meeting—as essentially a fait accompli—flies in the face of those claims,” Griffiths said.
In the meeting, administrators blamed the enormity of the draft budget for its tardy submission.
Loralea Michaelis, a political science professor, said that the budget meetings were traditionally preceded with a more intensive consultation process involving the whole community.
“The failure to circulate in advance is all part of the breakdown of the consultative process,” Michaelis said.
Despite the lack of time for preparation, faculty members disputed several proposed changes, including cuts to custodial staff and sabbatical replacements.
Budget officer Chris Milner said the administration does not intend to release any full-time custodial staff, but that casual staff might be.
“We’re not reducing the custodial because we feel we have too much custodial. We’re doing it because we need to balance the budget,” he said.
President Robert Campbell said that as the demand for custodial services fluctuates, so does that for academics.
“The demand for academic services rises and falls according to on the one hand the number of students that you have, and on the other hand the revenue you had,” he said.
While Campbell said the administration had no plans to let go of faculty, he said that certain measures must be taken to manage the loss.
“You hold off on a hiring there; you do one less sessional replacement there; you have a few less courses here; you add them all up,” he said.
According to Campbell, such actions saved the university $450,000.
Michaelis said that topic of sabbatical replacement cuts only arose haphazardly in a joint discussion meeting, despite requests from various departments for replacement staff and courses.
“That’s not proper consultation, that’s not taking the advice of faculty,” Michaelis said, “that’s knowing what the advice is and dismissing it out of hand without any real discussion.”
The administration’s consultation process contributed to faculty frustration.
Campbell said that when he arrived at Mt. A the traditional consultation process had “run out of steam.” The current process, he said, goes through directors on the board of regents, vice-presidents, and deans.
“Recently we found that working through the directors was adequate on the administrative side, and working through the planning side was adequate on the academic side,” Campbell said
Michaelis, who recently resigned as department head of the political science department in protest after learning that part her department’s budget had been removed from departmental control, said the budget process must change in order to regain faculty support.
In the meeting, Griffiths asked about impact of the strike on the budget.
“The document itself is sort of like an Apple device; it’s hermetically sealed,” Griffiths said. “All we get is the effect, we don’t see any of the work that led up to it.”
Frustration among faculty members and the finality of the document spurred suspicion.
“The problem lies in perception,” Griffiths said. “When repeated requests are made––reasonable requests to provide information that is easily accessible––and it is not acted upon, it creates perception of suspicion.”
Michaelis said that while there may be not be any nefarious reason behind the budget process, it exemplified the administration’s desire for discretion.
“If there is any moral fault, it’s not malevolence; it’s arrogance,” Michaelis said. “It’s not knowing what you don’t know, and thinking that you know a lot more than you do.”
Correction: The original version of this article incorrectly stated that Loralea Michaelis resigned as a department head because of a lack of sabbatical replacement. In fact, Michaelis resigned because the university removed some funds from departmental control that were to be used to offer two courses next year. The Argosy regrets the error.