As you read this issue of Life & Letters, state lawmakers here in Austin continue to debate how to close an estimated $27 billion budget gap. The final spending plan they send to Gov. Rick Perry in the coming weeks will include cuts to almost every area of stategovernment, including higher education and TheUniversity of Texas at Austin.
These are obviously difficult times for all of us, and we don’t yet know just how deep the cuts will be. But in the College of Liberal Arts, we’ve been preparing for this economic uncertainty for nearly two years. We’ve been looking for ways to operate the college — with our $100 million yearly budget, 500-plus faculty members and 14,000 students — more efficiently, while minimizing the damage to our core teaching and research missions.
All the while, we’ve strived to be as strategic, equitable and transparent as possible in our decisions. We’ve already saved $1.2 million a year, for example, by reducing staff and administration in college offices. We’ve cut annual allocations to our 20-plus departments by $4.7 million a year. And this past winter, we lowered our recurring yearly salary costs another $2.4 million when 27 senior faculty members accepted exit incentives that we had offered.
By stepping up our fundraising efforts and taking advantage of historically low interest rates, we also reduced the college’s share of constructing a new Liberal Arts Building by $1.5 million a year. The building is vital for the college to attract and retain top faculty and graduate students. For the first time, it will give Liberal Arts students a space of their own. In short, failing to construct the building would have been a death knell to our standing as a top research university.
Unfortunately, these cost-savings measures haven’t been enough. This fall, we’ll likely need to cut another $1 million in spending, largely from our academic centers.
This latest round of cuts was based on recommendations from a distinguished committee of faculty members who have spent more than a year looking at 42 performance measures for the centers — such as the amount of research published, the number of students served and the value of outside grants obtained. I revised those recommendations and approved the cuts only after lengthy consultation with students, faculty, alumni and university leaders.
Despite this grim news, I remain doggedly optimistic about the College of Liberal Arts’ future.
Recent national rankings confirmed that many of our departments — History, Psychology and Sociology, to name a few — are among the best in the nation. And as you’ll read in these pages, our faculty continues to conduct world changing research while our students develop the knowledge and critical thinking skills they’ll need to excel in the global workforce.
By being resourceful and intelligent in our budget decisions, we will make it through this economic uncertainty. We will ensure that what starts here in the College of Liberal Arts will continue to change the world for decades to come.
Randy L. Diehl,
Dean, College of Liberal Arts