Officials discuss budget cuts

Students may see a slight cutback in student programming next year, as administrators put together preliminary budgets for this Friday’s Board of Trustees meeting. The Board is set to approve University revenue for the next year Friday but will approve final spending plans at its May meeting.

Robert Chernak, senior vice president for Student and Academic Support Services, said the University always strives to be more budget-efficient and that officials must rethink investing in “things that don’t have a high degree of return.”

“(Students) might see cutbacks (next year), but I couldn’t tell you where,” Chernak said. “But I would suspect (there are) areas of inefficiency (that can be identified) if we put our mind to it.”

Chernak said he does not foresee “any dramatic shifts of resources for next fiscal year” or “any glowing deficiency.”

“I think (there’s) going to be more tinkering and fine tuning,” he said. “As a University, (we want to) reduce pressures on tuition. One of the ways to do that is trying to control costs.”

He said a one percent to three percent budget reallocation would be “healthy.”

Last year, the University reallocated $6.3 million toward other programming.

Departments across the University experienced budget cuts last year. SASS reduced its spending for Colonial Inauguration by giving out less food and prizes and by not distributing the GWopoly board game, which saved the University $30,000 alone.

“Monopoly was not going to have much of an effect. It was something that was a relatively easy decision (to cut),” Chernak said. “The (GW) towels might be a harder decision. People love them. The towels (are here to) stay.”

The University also cut back on materials sent out to incoming freshmen and their parents by putting more information on the Internet.

“(We) might have cut back a little too much … (We might) fatten up printed materials. Sometimes … assessments we thought were OK didn’t pan out the way we thought (they would).”

He said the University was “committed” to the School of Business and Public Management and Ivory Towers residence hall, both currently under construction, and a proposed freshman residence hall on F Street near Francis Scott Key Hall.

“Those are priorities,” he said, adding that officials are focusing on graduate student services – including social activities – and career, financial and housing services.

Concerning academics, GW instituted controls on hiring staff last year and delayed faculty merit pay increases until July 2004. Delaying pay increases saved the University $4.5 million, according to an April Hatchet article.

Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs Donald Lehman said this year’s budget priorities would focus on the University’s strategic plan, which includes seven areas of “academic excellence” and other initiatives aimed at making GW a top-tier university.

Lehman declined to comment further on budget priorities, although he commented before last February’s Board of Trustees meeting.

Chair of the Faculty Senate Lilien Robinson said she would like to see attention on the “academic end of the University,” including more funding for Deans’ Seminars and fellowship aid.

“Obviously, we’ve been told it’s a tight budget,” she said.

Chernak said the University Writing Program is a priority this year. One-third of this year’s freshman class took the course, which focuses heavily on research and writing. Two-thirds of the freshman class will take the course next year.

Students who took the University Writing course this year will enroll in a “Writing in the Disciplines” course, which coincides with a student’s major.

University Librarian Jack Siggins said Gelman Library is an active participant in the writing program. He said he wants to add two librarians to his staff next year to teach research skills in writing courses.

Overall, the library is requesting between $850,000 and $900,000 for collections and staff. He said Gelman needs extra funding to get books that focus on the University’s identified areas of excellence. The library received an additional $400,000 last year.

“(Our) single most important priority period is supporting the academic excellence program,” Siggins said.

-Elizabeth Chernow contributed to this report.

The Hatchet has disabled comments on our website. Learn more.