Campus bracing for cuts

Officials expect painful changes as $15M gets slashed from KU budget

Ask a Kansas University student how he hopes an estimated $14.7 million budget cut would affect him and the answer is simple.

“I hope it doesn’t,” said Lenexa junior Brian Havens.

After a Monday evening announcement that the state was asking Kansas universities to cut up to 7 percent of their budgets over the next two years, it quickly became clear that changes are ahead for KU.

Provost Richard Lariviere asked university leadership to take a second look at their budgets to make room for a 2 percent cut from this year’s budget and a proposed 5 percent cut next year.

For KU, this means a $5.5 million cut this year and an estimated $9.2 million for next year. Each school is expected to deliver its recommendations to Lariviere, who will present them to the Board of Regents at an Aug. 19 retreat in Wichita.

Havens, who learned of the budget cuts Tuesday morning, said he would hate to see anything take a hit.

“As a nation, we don’t really value education enough,” he said. “So why cut it more?”

University faculty are also bracing for a month of marathon meetings and painful trimming sessions.

John Gronbeck-Tedesco, interim dean of the School of Fine Arts, said he gathered a large part of his staff Tuesday morning to evaluate each budget item.

Gronbeck-Tedesco said it was too early to say what services or areas might be cut, but added that nothing was safe.

“We’re looking at anything and everything,” he said. “We’re hoping that things will arise rather quickly as being more crucial and less possible to cut.”

Joseph Heppert, professor of chemistry and chairman of the chemistry department, which falls under the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has also been asked to consider what can be trimmed.

Lariviere asked the schools to cut entire programs and services when they could, rather than taking nips and tucks. Heppert said that puts pressure on department heads.

“It’s difficult to think about cutting a program in one area without affecting all other areas,” he said. “Look at when they cut back on maintenance. In some regards it affected the quality of a student’s time on campus.”

While some staff said they hoped the students wouldn’t take a large hit, their worries were also personal. Yvonne Martinez, administrative associate in the chemistry department, said she was concerned about job security.

University officials are approaching the cuts with the knowledge that there will be some painful changes made. Lariviere said Monday evening that while he was asking the deans to leave academics and research as unchanged as possible, it was impossible to make large cuts and not have to eliminate some jobs, programs and services.

Some incoming students said they were going to wait until a clearer picture came out on the proposed cuts before getting alarmed.

Sara Batchelor, a Hutchinson junior transfer, said her concern would be the cutting of classes or programs.

“You come to a school the size of KU for the classes they offer,” she said. “I can’t say I would like having classes I came to KU for be cut.”

Lariviere told staff members Monday that library acquisitions, student financial aid and utilities would be sheltered from cuts. Tuition is also expected to remain unaffected, he said.