Advisory Committee

Activist group The Students Speak dedicated their full attention and energy to UT administrators and state legislators in a rally on Wednesday to protest budget cuts. About 100 students participated in the rally, which started at the statue of Martin Luther King Jr. and ended at the Capitol, where President William Powers Jr. testified before the Senate Finance Committee. Throughout downtown, they chanted “They say cut back, we say, ‘fight back,’” and wore red T-shirts with “No Budget Cuts” on the back. Their posters boasted slogans such as “Budget Cuts have Faces” and “Save Our Staff.” The College of Liberal Arts will lose $3.5 million in funding over the next three years, said Richard Flores, the college’s senior associate dean for academic affairs. The first $1 million cut will impact Liberal Arts centers, including those for Women’s and Gender studies, Asian American Studies and Mexican American Studies, according to a recommendation plan released by the Academic Planning and Advisory Committee. The committee includes faculty from nine departments, and its proposals are part of the college’s considerations in cuts. “We are being realistic, and we understand that cuts will have to be made in some fashion, but we are waiting to see what final decisions will be made by the dean of liberal arts,” said Luis Guevara, program coordinator for the Center for Mexican American Studies. Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl is meeting with different departments and centers before finalizing the cuts in a few weeks, Flores said. He said it will be hard to make cuts that the Legislature is asking the University to make without hurting the students. Flores said the centers are not seeing the worst impact of the budget shortfall. Many departments already lost funding last semester, he said. The Students Speak coalition, which organized the rally, started last semester in response to the cuts the advisory committee proposed to the centers. Austin resident Reuben Hayslett participated in the rally because he said he knows the importance of ethnic and gender studies. He said he attended Georgia Southern University for writing and linguistics, but the major no longer exists because of slashed funding. “I think the centers are important because they offer a chance for more critical thinking,” Hayslett said. Religious studies senior Caitlin Eaves said if it wasn’t for the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, she would not be doing her honors thesis. “I came here and I needed guidance,” Eaves said. “I needed to know what queer women in history have done. I needed to be able to locate myself in history.” Eaves said the center helped her by providing quality courses and excellent faculty members who proved to be great mentors. The Students Speak is organizing another rally on March 12. Eaves said the group wanted to hold a Saturday rally so parents and other working adults could participate.

Several members of the Faculty Council asked UT Provost Steven Leslie on Monday how the central administration would assist academic centers through the budget cuts and challenged him on the measurements used to determine the productivity of the centers.

The College of Liberal Arts, faced with a reduction in expected funding from tuition, decided to form the faculty-led Academic Policy and Advisory Committee to determine from where the budget should be cut. In early November, the committee recommended a total $1 million budget cut to the college’s 15 area studies centers, and the cuts were based on the productivity of the centers.

Associate English professor Susan Heinzelman, director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, asked Leslie how the administration would support the centers given that they serve the entire University and not just the College of Liberal Arts.

Leslie said the University expects deeper budget cuts in the next legislative session and has had to weather the financial crisis for longer than anticipated. Leslie said the areas of gender and diversity are and will remain top priorities of the University. He said the college will try to use nonrecurring funds to replace recurring budget gaps in the next few years.

“It is probably more important than ever that we adopt a policy for our centers that they need to work hard to try to generate revenues and external funding to support their own operations,” Leslie said.

Philip Doty, an associate professor in the School of Information, said he understands the argument to fund each center across campus in the same way — through college support and heavy reliance on external grants. But the relative youth of the humanities centers in the college preclude them from being able to generate the grants and external support that science centers can get.

“Centers, especially in the humanities and social sciences, are systematically disadvantaged when compared to their sisters in the sciences of the various kinds,” Doty said. “The administration of the University [may need to] recognize that not everybody starts at the same place.”

The standards the committee used to measure the productivity of the centers are too similar to the accountability measures used by Texas A&M in evaluating the value of faculty members, said Ted Gordon, chairman of the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies.

In September, Texas A&M released a report on the productivity of their faculty that offered a profit-and-loss look at faculty members. The report weighed a faculty’s number of students versus salary and research grants.

“I have a real preoccupation about using these kind of basic metrics to evaluate anything,” Gordon said.

Leslie responded that he has not delved deeply into the committee process, but he said the committee worked hard to follow through the suggested process.

“They came out with a recommendation, and now we all need to work together to take that recommendation and follow through with what best serves the institution,” Leslie said.

Heinzelman said it’s hard to imagine that the ethnic studies centers in the College of Liberal Arts are so unproductive that they need to be cut by 40 percent each.

The committee collected data from the centers without their understanding of what APAC would use the information for, and then the committee turned it into statistical information, she said.

“The statistical data cannot access and properly report on the qualitative issues,” she said. “What is it worth to educate undergraduates into an understanding of gender and justice? If the premises upon which all of these data were collected is inaccurate or does not reflect what we do, then obviously the results are invalid.”
 

Several academic centers in the College of Liberal Arts face budget cuts next year after a college committee recommended cuts based on performance reviews.

The centers provide classes for students who are interested in specialized courses and obtain specialized research grants for UT. The cuts from the college also affect how many grants the centers are likely to receive.

Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl formed the Academic Planning and Advisory Committee last year to advise him on which areas of the budget to cut in light of a $3.75 million deficit in the college. Diehl said the committee has worked hard over the course of the year to make the changes and will help him make an informed final decision. The committee began collecting data in April from each of the academic centers, which most of the centers provided by late summer. APAC made recommendations to Diehl on Friday, but there is no deadline for when the final decision on cuts will be made.

Richard Flores, liberal arts associate dean for academic affairs, said the committee chose how much to cut from the centers based on several performance metrics, including total number of semester credit hours offered, total number of students in the major and monetary input. Flores said UT told the college a year ago that its budget would remain flat over the next two years, creating a budget deficit.

“We had laid out some assumptions in our plan based on recurring money we thought we would be getting,” Flores said. “When that didn’t happen, we had to go back to the drawing board.”

Flores said centers such as the Texas Language Center do not teach but do specialized research.

The college may cut 100 percent of their contribution to the Center for Russian, East European and Eurasian Studies and the Center for East Asian Studies’ budgets, 40 percent from the Center for Mexican American Studies and 30 percent from the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, among cuts to several other academic centers.

Only 15 percent of the $3.75 million deficit the college needs to fill is tied to faculty and teaching assistants, said James Southerland, assistant dean for business affairs.

Only the Center for European Studies gained college funding — about $10,000. The largest monetary decreases hit the Center for Mexican American Studies, the John L. Warfield Center for African and African American Studies and the Center for Middle Eastern Studies. Centers that are cut 28 percent or more will get a two-year window to find outside funding sources.

Carl Thorne-Thomsen, an economics senior and president of the Liberal Arts Council, said he has not seen the proposed cuts and does not know how they will affect students. He said there was no direct student involvement in the decisions.

“I don’t know if it would have changed anything, but it would have been helpful to have students directly involved,” he said. “But I think APAC is a pretty good representation of student and faculty needs.”

Kristen Brustad, chair of the Middle Eastern Studies Department, said cuts to the Center for Middle Eastern Studies college funds could also endanger its federal grant money, so the center is scrambling. The center’s staff helps maintain grants and if the University does not show support for the center, the U.S. Department of Education may pass up the center for grants, Brustad said.

“We stand to lose staff who help run our programs and grants,” she said. “We’re gritting our teeth about the whole thing.”

Several members of the Faculty Council asked UT Provost Steven Leslie on Monday how the central administration would assist academic centers through the budget cuts and challenged him on the measurements used to determine the productivity of the centers.

The College of Liberal Arts, faced with a reduction in expected funding from tuition, decided to form the faculty-led Academic Policy and Advisory Committee to determine from where the budget should be cut. In early November, the committee recommended a total $1 million budget cut to the college’s 15 area studies centers, and the cuts were based on the productivity of the centers.

Associate English professor Susan Heinzelman, director of the Center for Women’s and Gender Studies, asked Leslie how the administration would support the centers given that they serve the entire University and not just the College of Liberal Arts.

Leslie said the University expects deeper budget cuts in the next legislative session and has had to weather the financial crisis for longer than anticipated. Leslie said the areas of gender and diversity are and will remain top priorities of the University. He said the college will try to use nonrecurring funds to replace recurring budget gaps in the next few years.

“It is probably more important than ever that we adopt a policy for our centers that they need to work hard to try to generate revenues and external funding to support their own operations,” Leslie said.

Philip Doty, an associate professor in the School of Information, said he understands the argument to fund each center across campus in the same way — through college support and heavy reliance on external grants. But the relative youth of the humanities centers in the college preclude them from being able to generate the grants and external support that science centers can get.

“Centers, especially in the humanities and social sciences, are systematically disadvantaged when compared to their sisters in the sciences of the various kinds,” Doty said. “The administration of the University [may need to] recognize that not everybody starts at the same place.”

The standards the committee used to measure the productivity of the centers are too similar to the accountability measures used by Texas A&M in evaluating the value of faculty members, said Ted Gordon, chairman of the Department of African and African Diaspora Studies.

In September, Texas A&M released a report on the productivity of their faculty that offered a profit-and-loss look at faculty members. The report weighed a faculty’s number of students versus salary and research grants.

“I have a real preoccupation about using these kind of basic metrics to evaluate anything,” Gordon said.

Leslie responded that he has not delved deeply into the committee process, but he said the committee worked hard to follow through the suggested process.

“They came out with a recommendation, and now we all need to work together to take that recommendation and follow through with what best serves the institution,” Leslie said.

Heinzelman said it’s hard to imagine that the ethnic studies centers in the College of Liberal Arts are so unproductive that they need to be cut by 40 percent each.

The committee collected data from the centers without their understanding of what APAC would use the information for, and then the committee turned it into statistical information, she said.

“The statistical data cannot access and properly report on the qualitative issues,” she said. “What is it worth to educate undergraduates into an understanding of gender and justice? If the premises upon which all of these data were collected is inaccurate or does not reflect what we do, then obviously the results are invalid.”