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Strategic Budget Advisory Committee (SBAC)
Strategic Budget Advisory Committee

UF College Outlines Grim Plan for Future

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The University of Florida campus. (The Gainesville Sun)

March 19, 2009

By Nathan Crabbe
Staff Writer - The Gainesville Sun

The University of Florida's largest college would need to lay off 66 faculty and staff members, eliminate one department and cut another two departments in half under a worst-case budget scenario described Wednesday by the college's dean.

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Paul D'Anieri said the college faces such cutbacks if a 10 percent, or about $9 million, budget cut comes to pass.

UF officials have asked colleges to plan for that level of cuts as the high end of possibilities if state lawmakers slash higher education funding.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' communication sciences and disorders department might be eliminated and about half the faculty and staff of its geological sciences and religion departments might be laid off in such a scenario. A total of 103 positions might be eliminated as positions are left unfilled in a variety of departments.

"It means we are diminished as a college and a community," D'Anieri said. "There are no easy cuts here."

The liberal arts college is the first at UF to release a proposal showing how cuts might look, although the draft is sure to change. Faculty members will have two weeks to suggest changes before the plan is sent April 1 to senior administrators.

A campus-wide plan will be released April 15, which will include varying elements of proposals from every college. A final version will wait until lawmakers determine the state's budget for the next fiscal year - a process that could stretch into May.

"Until something actually gets enacted, no one has to panic," D'Anieri said.

The details of the college's first draft provide a preview of the type of cuts that would be made throughout UF if deep cuts become reality.

The college is UF's largest with more than 900 faculty and staff members and a budget of about $93 million. Years of accumulated debt forced to college to trim its budget even before the state's economy took a downturn.

Last year's state cuts led the college to eliminate programs and lay off six faculty members. Some faculty members said cutting or eliminating three departments now would be devastating to the college's mission.

"If you take two to three good departments out, that's going to make us mediocre," said Michael Perfit, chairman of geological sciences.

D'Anieri said the college's budget history made it difficult to find administrative costs to cut. The plan would first make cuts by leaving 37 positions unfilled in 17 departments, including history, math and psychology.

But cuts beyond 3.75 percent, or $3.5 million, would require layoffs. While layoffs would be distributed through 15 different departments ranging from biology to political science, three departments would bear the brunt of cuts.

Under the plan, the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders would be moved to the College of Public Health and Health Professions if cuts exceeded 5 percent. If they surpassed 9 percent, the department would be eliminated entirely.

Department Chairwoman Christine Sapienza said her department studies everything from the effects of cell phone use to the design of hearing aids.

She said she's "boggled" by the idea of cutting the department but would welcome being moved to a college where "someone is enthusiastic to receive us."

Religion Chairwoman Vasudha Narayanan said cutting her department makes little sense in a society where religion plays such a central role.

"It is unthinkable that a university of UF's caliber would be without a strong department of religion," she said.

Religion doctorate student Caleb Simmons said the cuts would have a human cost.

"A lot of us have families, homes and we're losing a lot," he said.

D'Anieri cautioned that the plan was just a first draft and would go through revisions. But he said the college had already trimmed waste and would be forced to make difficult choices if the state makes major cuts.

"These are not weak programs, but we've got to do less than we used to do," he said.

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