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USF budget panel falls well short of goal

TAMPA — In August, a committee of faculty members, staff members and students at the University of South Florida was asked to recommend $12-million in budget cuts in anticipation of a massive money crunch expected to befall the state's universities.

With a dark financial cloud looming, the Budget Priorities Advisory Task Force released its report Monday. It was only able to shave off about half that amount.

The committee suggested restructuring some departments, eliminating others and urging centers and institutes to move toward self-sufficiency.

The process, they said, was neither perfect nor easy.

"We underestimated the difficulty of coming up with $12-million in budget cuts," said Dale Johnson, a committee co-chairman.

The committee based recommendations on narratives written by the chairmen of each department, budget office information, and office of decision support data.

Members ranked each department in four categories: centrality, quality, demand and viability. They also had to determine the budgetary impact of their recommendations.

It is difficult to put a price tag on every aspect of academia, said John Ward, also a committee co-chairman.

The report is merely one piece of information being considered as the university prepares for a mandated $34-million reduction to the academic affairs budget alone, said senior vice provost Dwayne Smith.

In a letter to academic leaders Monday, Smith emphasized that the provost intends to retain all current majors, though they may be administrated differently; and he is committed to protecting tenured and tenure-track faculty members.

The chairmen of each department will have until March 14 to respond to the committee's report.

Smith anticipates much discussion in the coming weeks about the recommendations, which include:

•  Reducing funding and urging self-sufficiency for units like the Institute for Research in Art and the Center for Jazz Composition.

•  Making a larger-than-average cut in the dance program and pushing for a greater integration of the dance and theater departments.

•  Downsizing the sociology department.

•  Absorbing Africana studies into one or more departments or cutting the major and offering a minor.

•  Consolidating the department of rehabilitation and mental health counseling with other, smaller units.

•  Cutting one or more instructors from the geography/environmental sciences and policy department.

•  Suspending funding for the Kiran C. Patel Center for Global Solutions.

As state universities wait for doomsday, there is no deadline to submit a final report, Smith said.

In the meantime, he will be busy putting out fires.

"We expect quite a bit of discussion," Smith said. "We're going to be (doing) rumor control."

Dong-Phuong Nguyen can be reached at nguyen@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5312.

. FAST FACTS

See the report

To view the complete report by the Budget Priorities Advisory Task Force, go to: www.acad.usf.edu and click on "Final report of the Budget Priorities Advisory Task Force."

USF budget panel falls well short of goal 03/03/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 3, 2008 10:03pm]
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