Golden Fleece #1. Fuller noted our observation that SIUC actually received more money in tuition and fees last year than the year before (this at about 14:00 into the interview). Cheng responded that that's a good thing, because faculty got $500,000 in promotional raises last year. What she didn't mention was that, even including these raises (earned fairly by promotions to associate and full professor, as the Chancellor noted), SIUC spent approximately $1.8 million less on Faculty in FY 2011 than FY 2010 (as so many Faculty lines have been left empty). Oh, and add the $1 million extra they sliced off via furlough days. So let's check the figures . . .
The Chancellor said that SIUC spent $500,000 more on faculty last year.
In fact, SIUC spent $2,800,000 less on faculty last year.
1. Athletics. In my radio interview, I noted that SIUC had doubled athletics spending, in addition to lavishing funding on Saluki Way. The Chancellor's response was that athletics makes up only a very small part of the budget, a budget she nicely stretched by including the school of medicine in Springfield--a part of the budget the administration usually doesn't include as, say, when furloughing faculty and staff. Perhaps the Med School should get its own sports teams? But I digress. Yes, our $23 million athletics operating (not capital) budget is small amount of our overall budget. It is also well more than the "structural deficit" the Chancellor talked about (a figure the FA has found less than credible, especially given the surplus in FY 2010). She did not explain why SIUC must spend $5 million more on sports than any other school in the MVC. She did not defend SIUC's decision to double spending on athletics during the last five years. She did not, in fact, defend spending any money on intercollegiate athletics at all--the silence from the administration on this point is rather astonishing, to my mind. I do not expect SIUC to cancel its athletics programs, of course, but as their relevance to our stated mission is far from clear, some attempt to defend their purpose seems called for. Students at SIUC, undergraduate and graduate alike, currently pay $292 per semester for intercollegiate athletics. Why should they? (Students at SIUE pay $160 a semester).
2. Saluki Way. The Chancellor noted that Saluki Way was (a) conceived under "completely different economic circumstance" and (b) represents a 1 in 50 year stadium rebuilding project. The first response comes close to admitting the project was ill-advised, given the economic downturn, but of course the project continues to this day, with the new Track and Field complex and Student Services and Alumni buildings. The second (b) is true enough, as far as it goes: the arena was nearly 50 years old (1964) and McAndrew far older. But the project was not only aimed at bringing the aging buildings up to code but at producing top of the line facilities.
3. Construction. The Chancellor argued that much work on campus is aimed at promoting academics, not athletics. She named a number of current projects, including upgrades to 20 classrooms in Faner, and the overhaul of the Ag building. The rest of her list was rather less inspiring: work on the woods around the lake (which so far, at least to my untrained eye, has done more damage than the derecho itself); reparing the Shryock steps (surely a mult-million dollar project), the library (progress here consists in waiting for money from the state to "bring the books back", as the Chancellor aptly put it); parking lots (this work necessitated by the new Student Services building). The Chancellor made no effort to defend either the new Student Services Building or the Alumni Building. Neither is a horrible idea, of course, on its face. While the new Alumni Building will essentially house our fund-raising apparatus, we do need to raise funds, and Woody is obviously aged and less than ideal. I have characterized both as "administrative buildings", which I believe is fair enough. Both represent the administrative viewpoint from which building new facilities for administrative functions takes priority over either revamping aging academic facilities or paying the civil service staff who would work in the administrative buildings.
Those looking for a snapshot of current campus construction projects should surf their way to here: http://www.pso.siu.edu/construction/extension-projects.html. One interesting thing you will learn is that while Saluki Way has preceded on pace, spending on infrasture and academic buildings is often marked "on hold". The renovation plan for Faner Hall, for example, calls for my part of the building to be overhauled by August 2010. As of August 2011, one year after this completion date, this overhaul is far from complete.
4. Capital versus operating budgets. The Chancellor both defended some projects as using no state funds and defended others because they used state funds that came with strings attached. This is an eye-glazing topic, but let me quickly state my take on it. Here's what administrators are alluding to, for the most part, when they say things like "that money comes from a different pot, so we can't pay you with it".
A. Some funds do come from donors or from the state with strings attached. For example, a private donor paid for much or all of the Trout-Whitman training center for athletics; state capital funds are paying for all or much of the transportation center.
B. Once money is designated for a certain purpose, it often cannot be redirected. If you've signed a contract with a contractor to build the football stadium, those funds can't normally be redirected. Once you’ve decided to devote student fees to Saluki Way (say via a bond issue), it will be difficult or impossible to redirect them.
Too often administrators blur the difference between (B) and (A). Citing (B) amounts to the following argument: I don't have the money to pay you because I've already decided to spend that money on something else. Not very convincing, is it? Even (A) is, ultimately, less convincing than it sounds: often--though of course not always--we could have asked the donor for something else, or asked the state for something else. If you've already asked and gotten a contribution for Saluki Way from a donor, that donor is rather less likely to be receptive for a request for money for academics. And if your fund-raisers are raising money for Saluki Way, they are not raising money for other projects.
5. Overall budget. Jennifer Fuller asked the Chancellor (15:15 into the interview) whether the overall SIUC budget has gone up or down. Her response: "the decrease in state funding is greater than the truth in tuition impact (= tuition increase), so the overall budget has gone down." Her premise, if we are comparing FY 2010 to FY 2011 (the last fiscal year), is correct. Her conclusion is, I suspect, incorrect. State funding did indeed go down by roughly $7 million, due to the loss of federal stimulus funding; and the increase in tuition and fees amounted to roughly $3 million. But other areas of the budget more than compensated. According to the 2011 budget book (page 32), SIUC's revenues were, after taking into account the reduction in state funds, budgeted to be $5 million higher in FY 2011 than in FY 2010. I cannot readily find more up to date figures for 2011 than these projections. But when it comes to this year, given the very small reduction in state funding (around $1 million), and the increase in tuition and fees, unless enrollment falls of the cliff SIUC's revenues will certainly be far higher this fiscal year (FY 2012) than last. And given the savings through the hiring freeze and the 2.2% cut across campus, SIUC's administration will have enough money to spend on its priorities for campus.