Questions for our budgeteers

Is the well-off leadership at the University not thinking hard enough about alternative cost cutting or are they just not listening?
June 23, 2009

Today the University of Minnesota Board of Regents are expected to vote on the 2009-2010 budget proposal offered earlier this month by President Bob Bruininks . In light of recent state funding reductions, the University must find ways to cut costs or raise alternative revenues. The proposed budget does this in two traditional ways: by reducing the University workforce by more than 1,200 and by heaping heavy tuition hikes on the laps of students.
At an institution like the University of Minnesota, which promotes learning and creativity, one would expect myriad alternative ideas to surface or even comprise the bulk of cost cutting during such dire fiscal times. Increased options for unpaid time off and energy savings represent a couple recent budget reductions , according to University spokesman Dan Wolter, but many more are needed.
To be sure, Bruininks and the Board of Regents held a public forum last week where 15 speakers made recommendations. While that move appeared somewhat belated — wouldn’t it have been logical to hold a forum before Bruininks actually crafted his proposal? — it will be interesting to see whether the Regents listened.
To those who work at this University, which purports to offer affordable and quality education to students, it has been painfully intimated by the budget crafters that alternatives will not suffice. But when compared to rising tuition, are expansive DVD libraries behind residence hall desks really worth it? How about the money for food at student events few attend? Are land lines in University buildings still a necessity? Or perpetually new automobiles for Parking and Transportation Services? Should teaching positions remain unfilled while additional police are hired ? These questions beg of the University community the following: If our enlightened and bountifully compensated leaders cannot find more novel ways to reduce expenses, are they truly worth the salaries we afford them?

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