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UI President Mason foresees some tough budget decisions

BY JENNIFER DELGADO | APRIL 06, 2009 7:40 AM

Though she fully expects budget cuts, UI President Sally Mason told university professors the future is still unclear.

“With our state budget and national economy in significant decline, we may be facing making cuts of a breadth and depth with a swiftness we have never seen before,” she said firmly, as she addressed members of the Iowa chapter of the American Association of University Professors on April 4.

“Regardless of what the outcome may be, we no doubt will face some very difficult decisions.”
Despite the uncertainty, Mason offered guiding principles the UI will follow when looking at reductions. Some of these principles include protecting research opportunities, library acquisitions, and departments affected by last year’s flood.

Student financial aid is another priority for the UI — roughly 20 percent of UI undergraduates receive some type of need-based aid, officials said.

Finally, Mason said the university will continue with its sustainability initiatives.

“This is also an area that will yield potential long-term cost savings and efficiencies across our campus,” she said.

On April 3, Gov. Chet Culver suggested all state agencies slash their budgets by 7.9 percent, forcing UI officials to continue to re-evaluate their finances. Mason asked professors for their input on cost-saving measures — roughly 75 percent of the UI’s budget is spent on personnel.

Mason then fielded questions from roughly 20 UI professors about the number of freshman applications, internal memory documentation, and unintended consequences of the budget cuts.

Some professors also inquired about the future of the UI Arts Campus and the probability of another flood.

“Most people are going to agree there’s going to be another flood,” said Peter Hansen, a chemistry program assistant. “It’s not if, but when.”

Mason urged UI professors to talk with their department heads about the budget. The university community should give feedback through the UI budget website, which has garnered more than 400 suggestions, she said.

The economic crisis will give faculty and staff an opportunity to bond, she said, just as last year’s flood united the community. She is positive the UI will stand strong after the budget cuts, she said.

“We did it through the flood, and we’ll do it through the economic challenge,” Mason said. “I believe that the same spirit of community and mutual support will be the keystone to weathering through these economic times.”


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