University colleges unite to talk about budget cuts

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Under a cloud of controversy about recommended cuts to 15 University centers and institutes, the College of Liberal Arts had its first College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committee meeting Thursday morning.

Senate of College Councils, which created the advisory committee program, discussed University funding again in its last meeting of the semester that night.

College of Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl sat down with the 12 students on the committee, which includes Student Government, Graduate Student, Senate of College Councils and at-large members, to discuss the budget forecast for the college. The group will serve as a bridge to help relay student opinion to the administration as well as to help explain and discuss budget planning and potential cuts to all students in the college.

“There have been complaints because there’s no direct student voice in budgetary conversations, and this is our way of getting that direct voice,” said Liberal Arts Council President Carl Thorne-Thomsen. “This first meeting was educational and informational because there is a lot of information out there and a lot of confusion.”

Over the course of the spring semester, the advisory committee will begin working with administrators, faculty and students in every college and school, said Senate spokesman Michael Morton, a journalism sophomore.

During the Senate meeting, representatives passed a resolution in support of additional state funding for the University. Although Senate has never lobbied at the Legislature before, it is necessary that they represent student academics with higher education funding on the chopping block when the state legislature tries to resolve a budget deficit that exceeds $20 million, said Senate Vice President Drew Finke.

“We need to be able to say that the things we [call] student concerns are actually things students care about,” Finke said about the importance of the legislation. “Investing in education at the University of Texas pays dividends down the line, and it’s really investing in the future of Texas.”

Senate passed five other resolutions, addressing creation of a system to report academic dishonesty, faculty and staff preparedness in emergencies, a new potential interdisciplinary program, course equivalency for study abroad courses and management of college council funds after the Student Organization Bank closes in January.

The resolution related to the interdisciplinary program spurred some debate, as representatives from Liberal Arts, Natural Sciences and the LBJ school questioned if the program reflected elements from existing interdisciplinary programs such as the Bridging Disciplines Program.

The resolution passed, so author Josh Fjelstul will create a committee to discuss the possible creation of the program, called Res Novae, which means New Minds. It would be housed in the School of Undergraduate Studies and include a global issues focus and a capstone project. Students from all majors would be eligible to participate.