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The Weekly Blab 4.13

The Weekly Blab

Volume 4, Issue 13—March 1, 2010


Budget, Budget, Budget…

When I read the political news in the newspaper or see it on TV, it usually doesn’t affect me all that much.  I may agree or disagree with what I’m hearing, and I may even get mad at the wildly unfair way that someone represents someone else’s view, but for the most part I’ll say “that’s just politics” and move on.


This past week, it was personal.  SPSU has suffered through budget cuts last year, and we had submitted plans for how we’d cover another $2.7M in cuts as part of the Governor's budget proposal.  While no one lost their job, it hurt because there were so many good things we had planned on doing that now weren’t going to be possible.  Some of these things included hiring desperately needed additional advising and faculty support staff, restarting the salary equity model, increasing funding for travel, and so on.  Instead, the $2.7M in cuts meant that we wouldn’t be doing those things, and would instead be leaving some vacant staff positions open, hiring a smaller group of new faculty than we needed, and having less money for equipment.   Still it could have been worse.  The Governor was saying “no more furloughs”, and the economy seemed to be picking up.


Then, the news came from the legislature:  they were looking at $300M more in cuts for the USG, which would mean $3.7M more in cuts for SPSU.  We immediately began thinking of how we might cover it, but it was hard to make the total come out to $3.7M.  Then on Thursday, the call came from the Chancellor.  We needed to let the system office know how we were going to cut the money by Saturday noon, and they wanted us to be specific—to put a face on it.  Too often, the budget cuts we’ve put forward have been vague and smoky—to too many, it looked like there wasn’t any real pain.  Somehow, after all the cuts, some folks in the legislature still though we were fat and happy.


Then it happened.  The system office said: “Let the public know the real cost of making these cuts.  Don’t try to soft-soap it--make it clear that programs will have to be cut, that real faculty will be cut, and that real students will be unable to get the courses they need to progress and graduate.


You know the rest—the news and how we’d respond to it was shared at the Staff Council meeting on Thursday morning, and at the faculty meeting on Thursday afternoon. We scheduled an all-campus meeting, mostly for the students, last Friday at noon.   We all wondered how many people would show up—Friday at noon isn’t the ideal time to have a meeting, after all.  So, at about 11:45 AM I headed over to the theatre, hoping for the best.  There were streams of people converging on the theatre from all directions, and even though it was still 15 minutes early, the theatre was already half-full.  By 12 noon, every seat was taken, and people were still pouring in.  Some sat on the stage, some were behind the stage, and many were standing in the back of the theatre.  I’m told that about 200 couldn’t get in at all, but had to wait in the lobby, where the sound was eventually piped over the campus radio station.  About 750 people came in all.   It was splendid—the students were engaged, were worked up, and asked good questions.  After, a reporter from WSB in Atlanta asked some appropriate questions, and a report was broadcast at 5PM, 6PM, 11PM, and 7AM the next morning. 


As most of you know, Andy Coen and Jessica Harrington set up a facebook page, and as of this writing, there were more than 8,000 names signed.  I’ve challenged the other VPAA’s in the USG to a friendly contest to see whose school will have the highest percentage of its enrollment signed.  So far, we’re obviously in the lead, but I’m seeing a lot of Georgia ‘Tech names lately, so keep things going!  The students are signing petitions, and a march on Atlanta is being planned.  Our community pulled together, because this is the one thing that we all believe in:  maintaining the quality of higher education. 


The other universities in the USG began responding as well, as did their students.  The legislators began to get bombarded with emails, calls, and letters.  And you know what?  They have begun to respond.  The good news yesterday was that Governor Perdue spoke up strongly for the USG.  Quoting from yesterday's AJC online (by James Salzer),


“I have been very chagrined at some of the scare tactics and fear mongering that has gone on regarding our university system,” Perdue told reporters at a press conference. “Let me say unequivocally that under my administration, we will not dismantle a world-class university system that we spent over two decades to build up. We are not going to do it through draconian cuts or scare tactics. The university system has taken its share of the cuts.”

He said some of the cuts proposed would “literally destroy the human infrastructure we put in place.

“It’s not going to happen on my watch.”


Immediately thereafter, Senator Harp and Representative Ehrhart (chairs of the House and Senate Higher Education Appropriations Subcommittees) held a press conference. 

The word earlier had gone out that they were going to announce that the cuts would be “much smaller” than the $300M that had been being discussed, but at the press conference, they didn’t give any specific numbers.  What they did say was that their preference was not to cut the USG $300M, but that was still the number with which there were operating.  Rep. Ehrhart talked about needing a “road map” and the chancellor had provided that (with his plan and the seven ideas) when he met with them earlier.  Both Sen. Harp and Rep. Ehrhart talked about a spirit of teamwork and cooperation between the legislature and the Regents in order to make the right and hard decisions.  Sen. Harp mentioned that the key to solving the budget situation was “shared sacrifice” and this statement was made in the context of tuition and USG employee salaries.  Both, in response to questions, dismissed any consideration of other revenue enhancements or taxes to balance the budget.


So where does this leave us?  It seems that things are moving in a better direction, and that people are backing away from the $300M cut.  Still, until a final number (that we could all live with!) is arrived at, it also seems obvious that we need to keep up the pressure.  Please continue calling and writing your legislators, and let them know how much the cuts will harm higher education and the State’s future.  Continue to support our students in their efforts.  The Legislature and Governor are listening, so this is not the time to back off in our efforts.


In the Eye of the Storm

Then on Saturday, in the eye of the storm, a highly successful Science Olympiad was held, organized by Lance Crimm (EE) and so many others.  Despite everything, we keep doing what we need to do and a lot more.  And that’s what SPSU is all about, and that’s why, despite everything, we’re in the moment.


Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch…

I was at the RACAA meeting at Macon State last Wednesday.  Alan Gabrielli covered my chemistry class so I could go, and an interesting meeting it was.  The budget cuts were hanging over the whole event, with everyone wondering how we were going to respond, if they are really going to happen, and what it all means for the future.  Discussions were held on implementing the new core curriculum (we’ve got some deadlines to meet), how the new comprehensive program review will work (no changes from what I said at the ALC meeting on Tuesday), and about the relevance of liberal arts in today’s economic environment (see articles circulated earlier this year on the subject).   Seeing colleagues from the other universities is always pleasant, but hearing about some of the challenges they’re facing (which in many cases are worse than ours) is sobering.  To show you just how desperate the situation is, they elected yours truly as the RACAA sector representative for the Comprehensive Universities. 


Academic Integrity Committee

The first meeting of the ad hoc Committee on Academic Integrity met on February 26.  Again, I didn’t think that the turnout was going to be anything to write home about, but the room was full, and everyone that didn’t have a class conflict was there.  Apparently Friday is a better day for meetings than I thought!  The Committee is engaged and eager to get at it, and it looks like they’ll take on the task of drafting an outline of a campus honor code (for the students to then take over and take ownership of), and some structure to how as a university we should handle plagiarism and cheating.  All were in agreement that the focus should be on teaching how professionals conduct themselves, but that sanctions need to be enforced when people don’t follow those standards.  More on this as it develops.


Last Week’s Trivia Contest

Last week’s contest was won really quickly by Heather Lawder (an adjunct professor in IET), who got all five.  Usually, there’s only one person who gets them all (if even that many), but we had three this time (the earliest email won the DVD), showing that our faculty and staff know their Peanuts.  Here are the answers:


1.  What profession is Charlie Brown’s father?  Barber

2.  What is Lucy’s (and Linus’) last name?  Van Pelt

3.  Where was Snoopy born?  The Daisy Hill Puppy Farm

4.  Who was the teacher that Linus had his first crush on?  Miss Othmar

5.  Which space flight had a command module named “Charlie Brown” and a lunar landing vehicle named “Snoopy”?  Apollo 10.


This Week’s Trivia Contest

This week’s contest is on the subject of songs about trains.  Each answer is the name of a song, which is also the name of a train.  As usual, the most correct wins the prize, which is yet another jazz CD. 


1.  Which train has “the disappearing railroad blues” in an Arlo Guthrie song?

2.  Which train do you take “From Casablanca going south, blowing smoke rings from the corners of my mouth”?

3.  Which train is it that “She’s the fastest on the line…Rollin’ down the Seaboard line”?

4.  Which train has on it “a girl from Tennessee, she’s long and she’s tall”?

5.  Which train goes “…bound for New Orleans.  Across the state of Texas to the land of dreams”?