Reeling from consecutive years of budget cuts and with more severe contractions on the horizon, higher education institutions statewide including UL Lafayette have begun preparing worst case scenarios for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. The self-review process at UL being conducted mainly between UL President Dr. Joe Savoie’s office and the deans has fueled rumors among faculty that severe cuts including layoffs are imminent. That’s not the case, says UL Provost Dr. Steve Landry.
“Even before this emerged,” Landry says, “Dr. Savoie had asked me as provost to begin a review process where we would do self-stock of everything, and so I’ve done some research and on campus we’re initiating an assessment process, reviewing all our programs for priority.”
Federal stimulus dollars are expected to run out next year, and it’s unclear how much if any the state may obtain to close budget gaps; state lawmakers have used some $3 billion dollars this year and last to help balance the budget. Couple that with another anticipated billion-dollar shortfall in the state budget, and the usual fiscal crutches — health care and higher education — will be leaned on again in 2011.
“Among the things we’re doing is looking at worst case scenarios,” acknowledges Landry. “And we’re preparing for the worst, hoping for the best. So those kinds of conversations between myself and the deans and between the deans and department heads are intended to simply prepare scenario cases. So, it’s not a directive: ‘Hey, find out how we’re going to cut 20 percent and go do it.’ Instead it’s, ‘Let’s take stock of everything we do and if we have to go 2 percent, 5 percent, 20 percent, how do we get there?’”
Landry characterizes the anxiety among faculty members as “some early reverb” stemming from the review process. “As the faculty comes back next week from their summer break,” he adds, “we’re going to be communicating with them this process that we’re undertaking as well. It’s going to be a full systemic review and I think it’s unlikely that our strategy would be, ‘O, let’s cut every department 20 percent.’ That’s not the best logic. The best logic is to look at what’s your strength and what’s your future look like, what do you really want to go after as an institution and a community and then maybe some departments can help us with 20 percent and maybe I eliminate a unit in the worst case scenario. I’m trying to take a very strategic approach to this and not just say, ‘We’re going to cut everybody 20 percent.’ So, that would really be a misrepresentation of what we plan to do.”