University Revises Budget: Restructuring Aimes for Sustainability

Image Curtesy Google Images.

The budget plan outlined by President Schrum and the Board of Trustees Executive
Committee has been a wide source of controversy over the past few weeks, as many people have
begun to question whether some suggested measures will affect many of Southwestern’s current
programs, students, and faculty.

Over the coming years, the suggested changes include increasing the student to faculty
ratio from 10:1 to 13:1, building a new Science Center which will cost $24 million, merging the
Smith Library Center with the Information Technology Services to save a projected $250,000,
cutting retirement benefits from the current level of $30 million, and, most strikingly, laying off
and restructuring jobs which will affect 37 staff positions.

Although the strain the economic downturn places on the university’s ability to provide
its services is significant, many of the new changes being suggested could be harmful to
Southwestern’s low classroom size, nationally recognized library, and retired and current faculty
and staff. Other alternatives should therefore be considered before taking such drastic steps.
While these are certainly tough decisions and can be difficult both to avoid and to
implement, there are also various other areas, which could potentially save money. During recent
years, a total of $500,000 has been spent on studies regarding whether Southwestern should have
a football team or if Southwestern should change its name. Further, after benefits, President Jake
Schrum’s salary is nearly $600,000. Adjusting these two figures could at least help pay for the
$2.8 million budget shortfall of the university this year, which would lessen the need to layoff
and jeopardize so many staff positions.

Southwestern also has a $250 million endowment currently, which is very large for a
university of its size. Spending a small portion of this would alleviate the burden felt both by
students paying tuition and by many staff workers worried about whether they will be able to
keep a job.

The issue of combating tough economic conditions with layoffs is also not specific to
Southwestern, as it is happening to universities across the country. However, higher education’s
inability to contain costs in a meaningful way has led many people to realistically suggest that
universities should begin to spend some of their own resources before putting the burden on staff
and students by raising tuition and using layoffs.

The best course of action is to consider this point of view not as running against the
university but for it, and as we follow this issue into the future, we must always keep in mind the
larger goal of making our system more liable, effective, dynamic, and less dependent on student
tuition and benefit cuts.

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