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|Priorities at ULM|
The University of Louisiana-Monroe unveiled its plan on Monday to cope with a $4.5-million reduction in state funding for the 2009-2010 fiscal year, which began July 1.
Like every publicly funded higher education institution in Louisiana, ULM faced a cut in state appropriations for the new fiscal year. The higher education community as a whole was dealt a more than $100 million budget cut. The cut was necessary in light of a more than $1 billion budget shortfall the Legislature encountered during its regular session. The 2009 regular legislative session adjourned in late June.
According to ULM, the university will not renew contracts for 36 faculty and other staff members to deal with its reduction in state funding in the new fiscal year. More than 41 vacant faculty and staff positions will be eliminated.
Also, staff members at ULM will take furloughs from one to four days depending upon their annual salary. Staffers who make less than $30,000 per year and ULM law enforcement personnel will not be affected by the furloughs. Faculty members won't be affected by furloughs either.
According to Laura Harris, a spokesperson at ULM, no tenured or tenure-track faculty members were terminated to aid the university's efforts to balance its budget, which must be approved by the governing board at the University of Louisiana System later this month.
If Harris is correct, ULM was wise not to terminate any tenured or tenure-track faculty members. Tenured and tenure-track faculty represent the backbone of any university.
In the meantime, let us recall what ULM proposed earlier this year when we learned the higher ed community in Louisiana faced a more than $200 million budget cut for the new fiscal year. At the time, ULM President James Cofer proposed that the university should eliminate some 49 tenured and/or tenure-track faculty positions to deal with ULM's share of higher ed's budget cut. Thanks to some fast-and-loose budgeting employed by the Legislature, higher ed was dealt a roughly $100 million budget cut instead of a more than $200 million cut in the new fiscal year.
Let us recall as well that when we learned the higher ed community would be asked to trim its expenditures in the new fiscal year, literally every university president in the state called on the Legislature to raise taxes to offset proposed budget cuts for higher ed. Thankfully the Legislature ignored higher ed's bellyaching.
While we regret to witness any of Louisiana's institutions of higher education deal with a reduction in state funding, we would do well to remind ourselves of why universities exist in the first place. They exist to educate people.
That said, we are a bit disturbed by ULM's decision to spare its athletic department—for the most part—in sharing in cuts the university leveled to balance its budget. After all, ULM is projected to use some $2.7 million in state funding to prop up its athletic department in the 2009-2010 fiscal year.
ULM should rethink its position on athletics versus education.
If the university sticks to its guns, so to speak, we'll have a clear understanding of what's important at ULM and what's not.