The Weekly Blab
Volume 5, Issue 21—February 1, 2011
A Strange Feeling of Deja Vu
February is here, and that means it’s the time for bad budget news. When was the last time we got good news at this time of year? I really can’t even remember anymore.
The news from Atlanta is that the budget is going to be bleak in 2011-2012. We’ve already been hit with another budget cut for this year (2010-2011), increasing the 4% holdback on our state appropriation to 6%. Since we’re already halfway through the year, this means that it’s an 8% cut for the spring. We have sufficient contingency to cover this cut, so there won’t be any cuts in travel budgets or department budgets for now. Next year, at least at this point, it looks like this 8% cut will be made permanent (or maybe even increased a little), and what’s worse, there won’t be any formula funding. Formula funding, for those who’ve forgotten, is the money that finally compensates us for the additional students we accepted two years ago. When we grow, we don’t get additional state funding for the new students (though we do collect their tuition, of course) in the year that they actually arrive. That funding only comes two years later, even though the expenses for working with the students (new faculty, new staff, new equipment, more capacity) have to be paid right away. Now we’re told that the money won’t be coming at all in 2011-2012. All together, that adds up to another mighty big whack at our budget. State funding on a per student basis is down to 2004 levels in raw dollars. What is it adjusted for inflation? I’m afraid to calculate it. Tuition increases will make up part of the shortfall, but we don’t know how much at this point, and the money will come out of our students’ pockets. With HOPE also cutting back, this doesn’t promise to be a good year.
While it’s obvious that cuts have to come somewhere in order to balance the state budget, and our colleagues in the legislature have a tough job to do, the USG looks like it’s going to get hit for more than its share. Nationally and at the state level, there’s a lot of talk about the importance of higher education in general, and STEM education in particular. When it comes time to pay the piper, however, everyone leaves us holding the bag. Stay tuned for more delightful details as they develop.
Last Week’s Events
As mentioned before, last Tuesday Jeff Orr and I gave our talk “The Rest of the Story” at UGA. While the audience was small, they were quite engaged and interested, and the talk went very well. Just to make life interesting, the venue where we gave the talk had Wi-fi, but my laptop’s Wi-fi card was turned off (since I never use it), which would have prevented us from being able to run the video clips in the presentation. Fortunately, the ever enterprising Keith Hopper was with us and figured out how to turn it on, and we linked in to the UGA system and were off and running. Afterwards, Cheryl Dozier (the organizer for the series of events at UGA) took us out to lunch, and a nice time was had by us all. We’ll be presenting the talk again at the upcoming PSLSAMP directors meeting, and then for the SPSU campus in the next week or two.
On Wednesday, Koger, David Stone, Wasim Barham (Chair of UITAC), and I had a conversation about UITAC taking on a larger role with regard to technology purchases. We have a funny system now. If someone proposes a new course, there’s a lot of scrutiny by UCC as to whether there will be any unusual costs, what the learning outcomes are, if there are enough faculty to teach it, if it will cause problems for any other department, and so on. In other words, it’s not just the course that’s looked at—it’s the big picture. Not so with technology—whether through tech fee or from capital spending, when a department gets money to buy computers or gin up a new computer lab, it’s largely a departmental issue. No one really sees what the downstream issues are and how they may affect others. These issues include such things as ongoing maintenance costs for the computers, general costs to increase the infrastructure to deal with the new computers, and the affect on other departments when a “regular” classroom is converted into a computer classroom. We’ve asked UITAC to begin taking these issues up as they go forward and to make appropriate recommendations.
Wednesday afternoon was the ALC meeting, which was mostly focused on the budget. Because of the aforementioned cuts, I had to inform the chairs that we’re going to have to cut way back on hiring for next year. It won’t be back to zero, but the lower priority searches currently underway will have to go on hold (unless things turn around budget-wise). I’ll be meeting with the Deans to identify what will go on hold and what will move forward next Wednesday. In the meanwhile, you all know the drill—we’ll have to try to do things more efficiently to increase our capacity to handle the new students without spending more money. You’re all probably tired of hearing me say that, and believe me, I don’t enjoy saying it. It’s the “new normal”, at least for now.
Thursday brought a meeting of the Polytechnic Summit committee, and plans are proceeding apace for the Summit, which will be held June 8-10 at good ol’ SPSU. Information about the summit can be found at www.polytechnicsummit.org, and we’re inviting all SPSU faculty (and your students) to give a talk or a workshop at the Summit. Information on how to apply to give a talk/workshop is available on the website. The host institution has to carry most of the water for a conference like this, so we’re counting on all of you.
On Saturday, I got to put on the ol’ penguin suit and attend the Cobb Chamber of Commerce annual dinner. Wow—what a crowd! There were some 1000 people there (most in tuxedos or formal gowns), and we got to hear about the many things the Chamber does to promote business in the county. SPSU was represented at two tables, and the big disappointment of the night was that Koger didn’t wear his pink cummerbund.
Saturday and Sunday also featured shockingly good weather, as I trust we all enjoyed. Of course it’s back to the cold and rain this week. Could be worse—it’s a big blizzard almost everywhere else. At least Chelsea is back to its winning ways, though it’s probably too late given the size of Manchester United’s lead, and the fact that they keep winning too.
Last Week’s Trivia Challenge
Lots of people knew their nicknames, so the winner was the fastest, Bow Van Riper, who took an amazing nine minutes after I sent out the BLAB to get all five right.
1. What state is “The Empire State”? New York
2. Who was “The Little Tramp”? Charlie Chaplin
3. What was Denton True Young’s nickname? Cy Young (the baseball player)
4. Who was “The Angel of the Battlefield”? Clara Barton
5. What was William Henry Harrison’s nickname? Tippecanoe
This Week’s Trivia Challenge
Yeesh—it’s getting hard to come up with new topics for the Trivia Challenge. This week’s topic is the Bible. No using the internet please—we’ll see whose been paying attention at prayer!
The last two are more difficult than they seem…
Chemistry in the Bible
Happy is the man who finds wisdom, and the man who gets understanding, for the gain from it is better than gain from silver, and its profit better than gold.