Money, Money, Money

BUDGET CUTS: It’s an ugly term. The mere thought of it makes you want to cringe. When it happens, it leaves everyone in disarray and shock, and most importantly it fills individuals with fear. It’s a dark time at the institution I work at. The University of Northern Iowa, along with its sister institutions have all suffered from budget cuts from state appropriations. However, as my institution is the smallest, we have suffered a great deal.

Currently, our President, Ben Allen, has had to make some difficult decisions about what type of non-academic programs to close. These include: the closing of our on-campus Printing Services (which will now be outsourced to other local printing services); the closing of the University Museum (which has been a university landmark for 120 years) due to renovations to the structural facility will be too costly at this time; and slight cut from the Athletics Department (which has had many in a frenzy); and the closing of the College of Education’s Laboratory School (in which education majors go to complete their Level II and III experiences of observing and teaching in the classroom).

The announcement about the Museum was met with great sadness because the staff who works there were expecting this day would come. My department has been working closely with the Museum staff this past semester due to an exhibit we were collaborating on. I’ve met some great people there, and it makes me sad that many of them are losing their jobs. However, the closing of the Lab School was met, initially, with the most fire from faculty, staff, and students. The structural facility in which the Lab School resides needs approximately $30 million worth of renovations. However, President Allen made a point in an open letter he sent out to faculty, staff, and students at UNI that if our institution is to be a leader in K-12 education, our teachers need to participate in more diverse, real-world experiences (which can be achieved by completing Level II and III experiences at a variety of schools in the area).

In addition, this past week announcements about closings of academic programs who averaged less than 10 graduates in a 5 year period are also on the chopping block for review. Many of our faculty are upset because they feel that all the decisions have not had proper consultations with the appropriate parties. There has been a lot of name-calling going around from everyone (students included). The atmosphere around campus these days is “faculty v administrators”, but some has spread to the students as faculty share their opinions in class about what is going on. Numerous support groups have emerged on facebook and Twitter for academic programs, the Lab School, and support for President Allen and Provost Gibson.

The great thing about UNI is that people are so passionate about what they do. However, this passion has turned into a certain level of defensiveness lately. Students, faculty, staff, and families from the Lab School have protested the President’s decision to close the lab school (which serves K-12 students). There was a march from the Lab School to the Schindler Education Center (where most of the education classes are held). President Allen’s recommendation for the closing went to the Iowa Board of Regents, who also approved the recommendation. From here, this moved on to the State Legislature, and many of those in disapproval went to the State Capitol on Monday to lobby and talk to state representatives about the need of the Lab School. This week when announcements about cuts to academic programs occurred, students organized a “study-in” (a sit-in) outside of President Allen and Provost Gibson’s office, where they will be studying 24/7. Not to mention numerous people (students, faculty, and even alumni) who have submitted “open letters” to the campus newspaper sharing their feelings of disapproval, support, “we don’t need Athletics, or “can we all just get along” in an effort to bring some type of peace.

In the Division of Student Affairs, we haven’t suffered any cuts as of yet. However, some of us – including myself, are a bit afraid. You just never know when you’re next on the chopping block. I’m mostly afraid of how this situation is affecting my students. Cuts to their academic programs could affect their decision to transfer to other institutions. The debates between administrators and faculty are leaving behind a trail of disdain, which students are picking up on. Who can they trust right now? And if my department gets money cut from our budget, how can we still provide quality service to our students and community? What if I get laid off – who will be doing outreach with students for my department? So much uncertainty makes me very uncomfortable. I know that people need someone to blame, but it is not getting us anywhere. I hope that some ray of light will come out at the end of this.

Has your institution recently suffered from budget cuts, and if so…how did the university community handle it?

Tabatha Cruz

Student Affairs - the First Years

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