May 2, 2009 in City

WSU cutting jobs, programs

Budget to be trimmed by 10.4 percent
By The Spokesman-Review
 

Facing the knife

Major cuts announced Friday at Washington State University include:

•College of Agricultural, Human, and Natural Resource Sciences, $555,000

•College of Sciences, $1.2 million

•College of Liberal Arts, $1.6 million

•Agricultural Research Center, $2.1 million

•College of Pharmacy, $850,000

•College of Engineering and Architecture, $2 million

•College of Business, $1.3 million

•College of Education, $1 million

•Business, Finance and Facilities Services, $2.7 million

•University Relations, $1.12 million

•WSU Extension, $3.1 million.

About 370 jobs and several academic programs will be cut at Washington State University’s four campuses as part of a preliminary plan to trim the budget by nearly 10.4 percent over the next two years, President Elson Floyd announced Friday.

Floyd said 165 positions will be left unfilled, but 206 of WSU’s 6,200 employees statewide will be given notice by June 1 that their jobs are being eliminated. Most of the jobs will be lost on the Pullman campus.

“These cuts are painful and difficult for our university community,” Floyd said. “Excellent employees will lose jobs. Worthwhile programs will be reduced or eliminated. But we have an obligation to balance our budget in the face of unprecedented budget cuts and this plan will allow us to fulfill that requirement.”

Federal stimulus dollars offset some of the cuts mandated last week by the Legislature. WSU’s biennial budget also was built on the assumption that the school will increase undergraduate tuition 14 percent this academic year and next. The Board of Regents will consider the tuition proposals on May 8 at WSU Spokane.

Of WSU’s urban campuses, Vancouver was the hardest hit with 29 layoffs and $3.3 million in cuts. Spokane will lose 13 positions and $800,000. Tri-Cities will be cut by nine positions and $700,000.

Spending cuts universitywide will total $54 million for the biennium.

Among the academic cuts announced Friday was the entire department of theatre and dance, as well as the department of rural sociology, the sports management program and the German language major.

Students currently enrolled in these fields will be given the opportunity to complete their degrees.

The elimination of theater and dance, which was given department status in 2007, came as a “huge surprise” to its chairwoman, Laurilyn Harris. She expressed a feeling of betrayal by the College of Liberal Arts, which recently presented her with a certificate of appreciation for 35 years of service to WSU.

“It appears it was much easier getting rid of one whole department than spreading the cuts around,” Harris said. “I think it shows a disrespect for the arts.”

The department employs two full-time professors, six instructors and a program assistant.

“We don’t know who will be allowed to stay to help our certified majors (students) finish their degrees,” said theater instructor Ben Gonzalez.

The ax fell on the theatre and dance department amid a capital improvement project to renovate the Jones Theatre in Daggy Hall, Gonzalez said.

On Friday afternoon, dance students were camped out on Terrell Mall in protest of the cuts.

“We are not going quietly,” Harris said.

Other cuts announced Friday include closure of the IMPACT Center for agriculture and food marketing on the Pullman campus and all nine WSU learning centers around the state. Many WSU Extension offices will be consolidated.

Beasley Coliseum will become self-supporting and custodial and maintenance services will be reduced.

Other programs, such as the College of Nursing and the WSU contribution to the Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho (WWAMI) medical education initiative, were left untouched. Libraries will only see a $100,000 cut.

The administration will accept comment on its budget proposals until June 1, and will enact the final plan on July 1.

The Faculty Senate will review the proposals to ensure that they adhere to the faculty manual, said Chairman Bill Cofer, professor of civil and environmental engineering.

Cofer said much of the proposed budget was based on a prioritization process completed a year ago.

Cofer said the process determined that “we can’t be all things to all people.”

He said the process was “very open,” but obviously “very painful for everyone.”

Floyd said the administration took “a vertical approach to preserve the quality and excellence Washingtonians have come to expect of Washington State University.”

He said permanent employees whose positions are eliminated will receive 90 days’ notice with few exceptions.

Contact Kevin Graman at kevingr@spokesman.com or (509) 459-5433.


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