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CLA 2015

February 2010 Archives

Text of Dean Parente's email of Feb. 16, 2010 to CLA faculty & staff

16 February 2010

Dear CLA faculty and staff:

I write to share information about the college's budget for FY11. As you know from President Bruininks's January 25 e-mail message, the University is confronting a very difficult economic situation. The University has developed its preliminary budget-planning framework, and CLA, along with all other colleges, has been asked to model a 2.75% budget reduction for FY11. This is a key element of a plan that also includes a 2% compensation pool, tuition increases, a modest investment pool of largely one-time transition funds, the payment of the 27th pay period for all eligible employees, and a possible furlough.  The details about the compensation plan and a possible furlough are not known at this time; they are still under development by the central administration.   

Planning for near-term and long-term reductions

This anticipated FY11 reduction comes on top of the 5.3% reduction that the college implemented for FY10. In real terms, a 2.75% cut in FY11 is $5.8M in our O&M (tuition plus state funding) recurring resources.  Please note that a 2.75% reduction is an effective reduction of 8.4%, since filled faculty positions cannot be reduced and the FY11 cost pool charges for space and University common goods and services must be paid.

Implementing a 2.75% reduction on top of what we have already done will be very hard and will require many painful choices. I realize that the challenges we are confronting are very difficult for all members of our college.  As we plan our current and future budgets, we will try to mitigate the impact of the budget reductions on our colleagues as much as our increasingly limited circumstances allow.   

Please also know that we are in the middle of an expected multi-year reduction of University resources from the State of Minnesota. While there are some signs that the national economy is improving, we do not anticipate that the State will reap much benefit from the modest economic recovery in the next biennium. It is likely that, in addition to the reductions that we are being asked to take for FY11, further reductions will follow in FY12/FY13. We have done admirably as a community thus far in facing our budget constraints, but we have more to do for FY11 and for the next biennium as well.

CLA 2015 Planning Committee and its recommendations for FY11

In December I charged the CLA 2015 Planning Committee with making recommendations to reposition CLA to achieve higher levels of academic distinction in research and creative work, teaching, and service by 2015, and to propose strategies for realizing this plan during a period of constrained or shrinking resources and a narrowing of focus. The establishment of this planning committee responded to the direction of the Provost to charge a "blue ribbon" committee to provide advice on the FY11 budget. I broadened the charge of this committee in light of the sea change in higher education today. In addition to advice on the immediate term challenges, the college needs a plan for the future that recognizes the changes we are experiencing and charts a new course that embraces our values and finds new opportunities.

I recently received the first report of the CLA 2015 Planning Committee. It outlines a series of recommended budget reductions for FY11 in the context of thoughtful principles that honor our college's core mission. It provides a blueprint for advocacy for the academic core of the University and the college and highlights the efficiency of the college. I am taking these recommendations under careful consideration as the college embarks on its annual budget and planning process. Please visit the CLA 2015 blog,, where the committee's first report is posted.

I am grateful to the CLA 2015 committee for their hard work, their thoughtfulness, and their willingness to wrestle with difficult choices in the formulation of their recommendations. Please remember that these are recommendations, not all of which may be implemented by the college. Please remember, too, that the 2.75% reduction is the number to which we have been asked to plan; this is not the final number. As stated in President Bruininks's message of January 25, the final amount of the reduction for FY11 will be distributed differentially across collegiate units. As we work through the annual collegiate budget and planning process with the academic and administrative units, and consult with the collegiate governance bodies, additional strategies for specific reductions suggested by faculty, staff and students may also be considered.

I look forward to working with the committee as it shifts gears from FY11 to imagining what the college might look like in 2015. As I mentioned in my earlier message in December, the committee will continue its work through the current term and into the fall semester. The committee will provide an interim report in the second half of April, and the final report will be available in mid- to late October 2010.

I would like to comment on one finding in the 2015 committee FY11 report that relates to what lies ahead for the college. After confronting the realities of the college's budget and the impact of a possible 2.75% cut for FY11, the committee concluded that the college's departments and units would not be able to sustain future rounds of cuts like the ones we saw last year and the ones we are likely to see this year. It concluded that the college will need to embark on some fundamental reorganization. Please know that the committee is only beginning its discussion of what such a reorganization might entail. This will be a key task in the second phase of its work, and, as its work progresses, the committee will consult broadly with members of the collegiate community.

The CLA 2015 planning committee co-chairs, Chris Uggen and Gary Oehlert, and I invite your comments and questions. Please correspond with us at

In recent years, we have enjoyed a considerably more favorable budget climate that enabled us to realize many of our priorities, and it is very hard now to confront the sobering reality--unprecedented for many of us in our professional lives--that force us to re-examine and re-think the organization and operations of the college, and to reconsider broadly the nature of higher education in the future. Our economic and budgetary situation requires that we change, and we need to adapt creatively to this new environment to maintain our academic strength. As we begin the next biennium, we will likely be a smaller, more focused college, but we will continue to encourage creativity and intellectual growth, and support academic excellence in research and teaching within the requisite fiscal limits.

Sincerely yours,

Jim Parente

CLA 2015 Committee presents FY2011 budget recommendations

CLA 2015 Committee
FY2011 Budget Recommendations
Gary Oehlert and Chris Uggen, co-chairs
February 1, 2010

Committee Charge

The CLA 2015 Planning Committee has a two-part charge: (a) prepare recommendations to the Dean for reducing the FY2011 budget and for requests in the FY2011 compact process; and, (b) prepare suggestions to the Dean for the future priorities, programs, and structures of the College of Liberal Arts.  This document discharges the first task of the committee. 

To repeat, this report provides recommendations to the Dean, who will make the final budget decisions; this report does not represent college policy.


We here outline the principles, priorities, and processes guiding the CLA 2015 Planning Committee's recommendations to the Dean for addressing the anticipated FY2011 budget reduction of 2.75% (or $5.8 million). Because the college cannot reduce cost pool charges (charges from central administration for space and common goods) or filled faculty lines, the nominal 2.75% cut represents an effective 8.4% cut on the remaining budget categories in the college.

Absorbing a budget reduction of this magnitude would be extremely difficult in view of the prior budget adjustments made in FY2010 and the already lean operation of the college. If such deep cuts must be taken, however, the committee recommends that they be decentralized so that units can decide how best to absorb them and unit-specific rather than across-the-board.

The committee's recommendations are geared toward protecting the academic core of the college and its students, suggesting varying levels of reductions in the categories of vacant faculty lines, TA and PA instruction, staff in units, supplies and equipment, CLA Administration and Student Services, and other areas. With great reluctance, the committee identifies potential cuts of at least 5% in most budget categories. To minimize the impact of such reductions on our core academic mission, the committee recommends that the college work with central administration to address rising cost pool charges, to increase retirement incentives, and to recognize and support the college's primary role in educating the University's students.

Scope of FY11 Budget Changes

The committee was originally charged with recommending cuts totaling 1.25%, but the cuts described here for FY11 are based on the assumption of a 2.75% cut ($5.8 million) as specified in the budget instructions for FY11 from central. This cut will be taken on top of the $1.4 million cut needed to cover the unrealized portion of the FY10 cut. Our recommended cuts will be based off the FY10 budget adjusted for the $1.4 million in changes already discussed in CEDD.

The dollar amount of a 2.75% cut is based on the entire CLA budget, but CLA cannot control central cost pool charges, and salaries for tenured/tenure track faculty are protected by tenure policy.  Thus the entire reduction must be taken from the remaining (approximately) one third of the budget, and this implies that the cut is more than 8% on those things that we can change.

After working through various budget reduction suggestions, the co-chairs noted that suggested reductions fell neatly into clusters, which we might call small, medium, large, and draconian.  The committee will recommend cuts at 5%, 7.5%, 13%, and, in a few cases, substantially higher levels.

Principles and Priorities for FY11 Budget Changes

The committee believes that budget cuts cannot be made in a vacuum but rather must be guided by a set of principles. While no formal vote was taken on principles, the following emerged repeatedly during our retreat and subsequent discussions:

1. Protect students
2. Protect core missions of teaching and research
3. Protect distinction
4. Protect diversity
5. Look forward to the future of the college, not backward
6. Do fewer things, but do them better
7. Show respect and equity for all employee groups
8. Work with central on cost pools, revenue, flexibility
9. Find efficiency, but within academic motivation

The 2015 Committee states for the record that simultaneously adhering to all these principles in the face of severe budget cuts is not possible. Nevertheless, we have endeavored to provide some degree of protection for those budget categories that are most closely and directly associated with these principles.

The committee also discussed two procedural principles:

Decentralization. The committee strongly favors decentralizing reduction decisions to the greatest extent feasible. That is, we ask the Dean and college administration to tell units how large a reduction they must make, and then permit the units to decide where and how to make the cuts after factoring in their unit priorities and obligations.

No across-the-board cuts. The committee urges the college to avoid across-the-board cuts. That is, the committee may recommend a 5% cut to administration in units, but that does not mean 5% across-the-board. Instead, the college should determine the levels based on equity across the college, protecting excellence, and meeting the urgent needs of units already stretched to their limits.

The 2015 Committee acknowledges that our recommendations to impose cuts by functional area (e.g., non-faculty instruction or SE&E), not making across-the-board cuts to units, and decentralizing decisions as much as possible may come into conflict. Nevertheless, we make these recommendations in a spirit of respect for the unique needs and circumstances facing each unit in a college as diverse as CLA.


Working with Central Administration

The first recommendation that the CLA 2015 committee brings forward is the absolute necessity of Dean Parente, perhaps in concert with other deans, doubling and redoubling his efforts to obtain fair treatment from central for CLA and other academic units. 

Specific issues to be addressed include the following:

  • Student outcomes. Continuous large reductions to the academic core of the university (arts, humanities, and sciences undergraduate education) while serving the same number of students will lower the quality of the education that the University provides, resulting in fewer high ability students choosing to attend the University, lower retention rates, and lower four-year graduation rates. Central must protect the academic core.

  • Cost pools.  The inexorable growth in cost pool charges cannot be sustained.  As just one example, consider the libraries. While we all understand the fundamental role of a library in educating our students, the library does little good if we cannot afford the instructors to send the students to the library.  More specifically, instead of spending $12 million in cost pools on the library, our students would be better off with $10 million spent on the library and $2 million spent to offset decreases in the instructional budget.

  • Tuition. The college needs to know that incremental tuition raised through new initiatives will remain in the college. Without this, there is little incentive to pursue new tuition revenue.

  • Efficiency.  CLA is already one of the most efficient collegiate units at the University, operating on a very lean budget while teaching half of the undergraduates.  CLA has the most undergraduates per faculty member, the lowest cost per degree seeking student, and the second smallest state allocation per student.  At the same time CLA has many highly ranked departments and more than our share of Regents Professors.  It doesn't make sense to cut the most efficient units as much as the less efficient units, because cuts to the most efficient units do more damage, and in CLA that damage applies to a lot of students.

  • Retirement Incentives. There is a desperate need for alternative or additional retirement incentives.  This is true for all employee groups, but it is especially important for faculty, whose salaries are a large and nearly unchangeable portion of the budget. The college will be severely limited in its ability to reorganize and reshape itself for the new normal unless and until there is room in the faculty budget for moving scarce resources into high priority areas.


Vacant faculty lines are a tempting target for reduction, but we limit the cuts here for several reasons.

1. The college must continue hiring new faculty to have any chance of maintaining momentum and distinction.
2. Faculty ranks have already been thinned, sometimes dangerously so, during the last round of cuts.
3. Vacant faculty lines fund other collegiate needs that cannot be eliminated all at once.
4. The current vacant positions were not chosen strategically, and strategic hiring must continue.

Our suggestion is a reduction of $2 million or approximately one-third of the vacant lines in FY10. This is the upper end of recommendations and is most feasible if the university has better retirement incentive options.

There was general agreement that faculty also need to share some of the pain of this budget cut; there was less agreement about how this could be done without damaging distinction in research. The most common suggestion was that some faculty support programs (research course releases, Single Semester Leaves, Sabbatical Supplements, etc.) be restricted, although sufficient resources should be maintained to support probationary faculty. 

The committee recommends three curricular approaches to deal with decreased faculty counts:

1. Units with sharply reduced faculty counts will have great difficulty staffing freshman seminars or honors seminars. Some units should be given leeway in reducing these offerings.
2. The catalog of courses on the books must shrink, and old courses should be removed when new courses come on board. Similarly, proposals for new programs must detail what current programs/curriculum will be discontinued to staff the new program.
3. Units must reduce the amount of co-teaching.

Although not strictly a budget reduction item, the committee recommends that when merit increases become available, the college should not award across-the-board merit increases to departments.

The magnitude of the cuts and their likely impact on students, staff, and faculty also occasioned discussion of more radical suggestions to protect the viability of the college as a distinctive research and teaching unit.

Although not formal recommendations by the 2015 committee, some of these suggestions included the following:

  • The college needs everyone, including faculty, to be as productive as possible.  Therefore, even though the post-tenure review process is difficult and lengthy, units should apply the process for faculty who are not meeting basic research, teaching, and service expectations.
  • The college could investigate higher teaching loads for faculty with low research productivity.
  • The college could investigate an across-the-board or sliding scale pay cut for faculty (cf. the 5% pay cut taken by faculty in one department of the Medical School).

Non-Regular Faculty Instruction

Instructional expense consists primarily of TA and PA salary and fringe with some additional costs for term faculty. TAs and PAs are dedicated colleagues who serve the college well and deliver fundamentally important segments of our curriculum.  We must be up front that reducing non-regular faculty instruction means that fewer TAs and PAs will be employed and that our curriculum and how it is managed may need to change to adapt to the loss of these valued colleagues.

Units will be using a "one pot" budget model this year, so the committee treats these two categories as one grouping. Instruction is the largest single pool of money over which we have significant, immediate control, thus some of the incremental FY11 cut must surely come from here.  At the same time, this is funding that supports our core academic mission, so cuts here should be minimized.  Jennifer Windsor and Nanette Hanks reported to the committee that at most about 100 more courses (roughly $1 million) can be cut from instruction without serious negative effects.  This amount assumes a fixed level of productivity from instructional staff.

Graduate programs have already received their enrollment targets for Fall 2010.  These targets should reduce the total number of supported graduate students by approximately 45, which should in turn reduce support funding to graduate students by $1.26 million assuming that these 45 would have been supported as 50% TAs.

With great reluctance, the committee recommends that $1.53 million (5%) be cut from non-faculty instruction.  This is the $1.25 million expected from TAs plus an additional $.28 million from instructional costs. The committee strongly recommends that these cuts be targeted to minimize the effects on graduation rates and on the curriculum; they should not be across-the-board cuts. The college will need to model these cuts carefully to achieve the best outcomes.

The committee discussed some strategies to achieve these reductions.  We cannot make specific recommendations, as best practices are likely to vary from unit to unit, and a portfolio of options may be the best approach. However, the committee notes that widespread application of these strategies could increase productivity sufficiently to save considerably more funds than were recommended above. The college may wish to consider incentives for units to go beyond their assigned reduction. Strategies include:

  • Increase average class/section size and reduce the number of lectures/sections led by PAs and TAs. 
  •  Ensure equitable workloads for full-time PA instructional staff. 
  • Explore options for standardizing PA workload.
  • Analyze and/or standardize course reductions for PA instructors.
  • Eliminate poorly subscribed courses or place such courses on longer rotations (e.g., every other year).
  • Increase course minima (e.g., 20 for 1xxx and 10 for 5xxx).
  • Reduce the number of freshman and honors seminars.
  • Analyze alternatives to senior projects (e.g., larger capstone courses).

The committee agreed that some quid pro quo would be appropriate for the PAs with increased assignments.  Two possibilities for those who take on more work include longer appointment contracts or increased salaries (which would clearly cut into the savings, but might still be manageable).

While there was no consensus on the committee, other factors such as market saturation and program quality could also be considered when determining the appropriate admissions cohort size for different graduate programs.

The committee also recommends that the college permit programs to accept and matriculate unsupported graduate students. Unsupported students have the potential to bring incremental revenue (assuming that the college can keep the tuition), and increased cohorts fill out under-subscribed classes and make for a superior learning environment.  However, cohort sizes must not grow so much that additional resources are required to serve them.

Administrative Staff in Units

Units have traditionally been fiercely protective of their administrative staff.  However, given the magnitude of the cuts, some cuts will be needed here as well.  Reluctantly, the committee recommends a reduction of $.62 million (5%) in unit administrative costs. 

The committee recommends that this reduction be accomplished in the context of a college-wide effort to achieve equity in workload for administrative staff and to protect the critical functions occurring within each unit. In addition, the committee notes that a situation with many small administrative groupings is generally less efficient than one with fewer, larger groupings. For this reason, the committee recommends that the college explore larger groupings when achieving the equitable workloads. 

Another alternative involves a model in which some activities now staffed in individual units are handled on a regional basis instead.

Supplies, Expenses & Equipment (SEE) and "Other in Units"

SEE comprises the bulk of the discretionary money budgeted to units. The "Other in Units" category includes the Chair's Strategic Initiative, equipment and depreciation in the arts facilities, equipment for geography and new media studies, animal care for psychology labs, and a few other miscellaneous items. The committee recommends a cut of $.11 million (7.5%) for SEE and a cut of $.12 million (13%) spread across the various categories in Other.  In addition, the committee recommends a cut of $.11 million (13%) to the soft staffing in units.

CLA Administration and Student Services

The committee recommends that CLA Administration (Deans, IT, Fiscal/EFS, Development, Media/PR, HR) and CLA Student Services (CLASS) take cuts totaling $.83 million (7.5%); cuts to advising should be capped at 5%.  Soft staffing within CLA Administration and CLASS should also be cut 7.5%, again capping the cut to advising at 5%.  The committee also recommends a comprehensive review in CLA Administration to determine the appropriate staffing level.

The CLA Dean's budget includes the $500K GRPP program; there was no consensus on the committee and opinions varied widely regarding what fraction of the CLA Administration cut should come from the GRPP allotment.


The remaining categories in the printed budget are the Language Center, the Writing Center, the collegiate research centers, sabbatical supplements, neuroimaging, and a small miscellaneous group.  The committee recommends that these groups take a combined cut of $.37 million.

The committee also recommends that the college explore whether more of the Language and Writing Center budgets could be moved off of O&M and onto fees.

Finally, the committee recommends that soft funding in the centers be reduced by 13% and that the college explore combining administrative support in some centers to achieve savings.

Total Reduction

The total of the recurring cuts recommended here is $5.58 million.  This is somewhat less than the target of $5.8 million, but the committee is confident that the additional savings can be obtained through productivity increases in instructional funding.

Committee Membership and Process

Committee Membership
Chris Uggen, Co-chair           
Gary Oehlert, Co-chair           
Scott Elton, staff to the committee
Brenda Child
Jennifer Cieslak
Karen Dewanz
Ana Paula Ferreira
John Freeman
Ronald Greene
Laura Gurak
Keitha Hamann
E. Haven Hawley
Karen Ho
Thomas Holmes
Walt Jacobs
Kimi Johnson
Alexis Kuhr 
Erika Lee
Richard Leppert
Barbara London
Angus McDonald
Judith Martin
David Myers
Peggy Nelson
Steven Ostrow
Glen Powell
Aria Sameni
Geoffrey Sirc
Al Tims
Klaas van der Sand


Committee Process

The committee met for four 90-minute working meetings and a two-day brainstorming retreat organized in the following fashion:

Meeting 1.  Charge to the committee by Dean Parente, discussion on the structure of the CLA budget, and discussion of possible budget futures.

Meeting 2.  Retreat planning and goals.

Retreat.  The retreat was organized into four blocks, each with three breakout sessions. After each breakout session, a representative from each of the groups reported back to the full committee for a general discussion. The last set of breakouts was focused on FY11 budget process, FY11 budget cuts, and potential FY11 compact requests. The positioning of FY11 as the last breakout session was deliberate; in this sequence, the committee would do some long-term thinking before making short-term decisions.

Meeting 3.  Preliminary discussion of FY11 cuts on January 20.

Meeting 4.  Final discussion of FY11 cuts on January 28.

With the assistance of CLA staff, the committee received and reviewed a variety of information about units, budgets, major and faculty counts, and so on and received budget spreadsheets before meetings 3 and 4; these spreadsheets were used to model budget reductions. The committee also received before meeting 4 a preliminary draft of this document (containing many of the ideas and themes that emerged in meeting 3 but without numbers).

Meeting 4 began with a discussion of three major funding categories: vacant faculty lines, non-faculty instruction, and everything else. Most discussion centered on the first two categories. In addition to open discussion, Chris Uggen posed some questions that were answered by the committee using a clicker system to conduct immediate polling and tabulate votes. This helped reveal areas of consensus and disagreement among the full committee. For example, one of the first clicker votes was on the question of whether it was time for a fundamental reorganization of the college (e.g., merging departments or shutting down programs).  Nearly all (96%) of the respondents were in favor of considering such reorganization.

Finally, the committee co-chairs displayed a starting budget containing more or less proportional cuts in all areas, and the committee went through the categories arguing for greater or lesser cuts in the various areas.

After meeting 4, the co-chairs met to try to synthesize the discussion and prepare this report. They distributed the report to the committee for comments and submitted the report to Dean Parente on February 1. Following feedback received during the week of February 1, the report was revised and a final report was submitted February 5.