Carl Thorne-Thomsen

The College of Liberal Arts College Tuition Budget Advisory Committee sent its first round of budget recommendations to College of Liberal Arts deans before spring break and expects a response within the next several weeks. The council has already gotten approval for Dean Randy Diehl’s office to send direct updates to students periodically — particularly when new information arrives — and to notify CTBAC and students at least two weeks before a decision about budget cuts is to be made. Because it has already gotten some measures approved, the liberal arts CTBAC will provide a model for other colleges still in the process of implementing their councils. Pending recommendations include preserving all centers and departments, prioritizing funding for teaching and research over outreach, reevaluating faculty merit pay increases and encouraging efficient use of resources. Carl Thorne-Thomsen, liberal arts CTBAC chair, said they are exploring other means of cutting the college’s costs, such as evaluating which departments and centers could be effectively combined and moving some courses online. “We identified some of the introductory and bigger courses as being able to be offered online,” he said. “I don’t think anybody wants to replace a 10- or 15-person seminar class, but we still have to put a lot of thought into which courses would work best online.” Thorne-Thomsen also said the council has begun conversations about a responsibility-centered budgeting model that will essentially try to change the way colleges are allocated funds. All the money generated by the University — tuition and other fees — goes to the Tower and the Office of the President and is then distributed to the different colleges. “We want to see if there is a way for that formula funding to be used by the schools directly,” Thorne-Thomsen said. “What we want to do is try to align some of the incentives a little bit better. Namely, more efficient space usage paying for their own utilities.” Thorne-Thomsen said this new process has been effective in getting the deans talking and keeping everybody accountable for the budget. “To hear from the deans how much they appreciate all the time we’ve taken to educate ourselves and others is encouraging,” he said. “It really shows how seriously they are taking these recommendations.” The liberal arts CTBAC is the only CTBAC established that has presented the deans with a set of written recommendations, said Michael Morton, spokesman for the Senate of College Councils. The only other councils that are even close to presenting recommendations are in the LBJ School of Public Affairs and the McCombs School of Business, he said. “The reason the COLA CTBAC is so far ahead is because they had to be,” Morton said. “They had to respond extremely quick in order to be a vehicle for student representation for budget cuts.” The College of Liberal Arts, having recently sent its budget recommendations to the administration, is the catalyst for what could become a system-wide trend. The UT System Student Advisory Council, which is made up of student advisers from each system school, unanimously passed a recommendation to form CTBACs at each system campus. In May, the recommendation will go before the Board of Regents, which is required to either pass or fail it. Implementing CTBACs throughout the system will augment what has been accomplished and attest to the success of student involvement in the budget process, said Chelsea Adler, president of Senate of College Councils. With UT-Austin schools having already formed their CTBACs, the other system schools will have working models to examine if the recommendation passes. “UT Austin is ahead of the game and it’s been really exciting to work with students from other schools to figure out how we can get more students involved in this process, as well,” Adler said.

Students gave their input on proposed budget shortfalls facing the College of Liberal Arts during an open meeting the College Tuition and Budget Advisory Committee hosted Monday.

CTBAC invited liberal arts students to give recommendations and feedback before the committee submits a formal recommendation plan to Liberal Arts Dean Randy Diehl before spring break, said CTBAC president Carl Thorne-Thomsen.

According to an e-mail the dean sent to liberal arts students on Friday, the college is expected to face millions of dollars in cuts over the next three years. Diehl wrote that the cuts are necessary because of an estimated $27 billion state budget shortfall.

“These are difficult times for all of us and we don’t yet know how deep the cuts will be,” Diehl wrote. “I strive to be as methodical, equitable and transparent as possible during this process and to minimize the damaging effects of the cuts on our core research and teaching missions.”

The college will most likely cut $1 million from area studies centers later this semester, according to the e-mail.
These centers include Asian American studies, Women’s and Gender Studies, Humanities Institute, Texas Language Technology Center and more, according to a recommendation plan by the Academic Planning and Advisory Committee. No center will receive increased funding while the others are being cut.

Members of Liberal Arts Council have been reaching professors and students who are voicing their opinions against these measures, said Shakshi Kshatriya, international relations and global studies junior and a member of
the council.

“Many people feel very passionately about the centers and they are concerned about their decrease,” Kshatriya said.
The committee is focusing on creating more qualitative data to present to the dean by conducting online surveys and soliciting opinions of students across campus, said committee member Yaman Desai.

“We are looking at what services students really value and what services they use more than others,” Desai said.
The formal recommendations will include student feedback and other things that the committee views as high priority issues for the College of Liberal Arts.

Students recommended to the committee that it should ask the centers to look into more options for funding outside the University.

Many guest lectures that are organized through these centers are paid by student tuitions. As much as students might enjoy these guest lectures, the college should be willing to cut down on these costs if push comes to shove,
Kshatriya said.

Government and history junior Philip Wiseman said students are here to get a degree. Things that pertain to graduating on time and getting quality education should be prioritized over other expenses, he said.

CTBAC researched different departments and programs on campus to see how the budget cuts are impacting the University as a whole, Thorne-Thomsen said.