Vice Provost Slesnick discusses Deans’ budget propositions, addresses concern

Huma Munir

Deans from all colleges and schools meet with members of the Office of the Executive Vice President and Provost every year to discuss a five-year budget plan. In light of a $92 million cut to higher education from state appropriations for the next two years, deans and department chairs have been laying employees off and cutting back on administrative and some student services for the past year and a half. These cuts have impacted every department, college and school at UT. The Daily Texan sat down with Daniel Slesnick, a vice provost for resource management, to discuss the future budget plans and current implications of the budget cut.

The Daily Texan: What is the process called and how many deans have you met with?
Daniel Slesnik: About 5 deans. Each of the units [at UT] have to prepare a [Deans/Provost Academic Core] document. It’s an annual process, which starts at the end of the fiscal year. It’s a preparation for the next fiscal year. We tell the deans we want a five-year budget, and then we give them a basic parameter. [This year] we told them they are not getting any money from the provost office. Any new initiatives are going to have to be self-financed.

DT: How were the meetings different this time?
DS: Any ramifications of a [$92 million state cut] is going to be for this 2011-12 year. There were two sets of cuts. The initial 5 percent cut, $15 million, came from the vice president side. The second round cut $17 million from schools and colleges and the remaining $13 million came from the administration.

DT: Where did you see most reductions happening?
DS: Well, it was very different depending on the financial circumstances of the deans. In some cases, it would be they have reserves they would allocate. One of the key parameters for this was that they had to maintain their current teaching loads prior to the budget cut. You had to offer the same level of instructional services. Reducing instruction was not on the table.

DT: What can we expect for the next biennium?
DS: For the next five years, we are looking at a flat budget. We are not saving any money, it’s just reallocation. As far as actual cuts, the only cuts made were the $92 million — which is over a biennium.

DT: Which college or school has taken the greatest hit?
DS: It was not one size fits all. There were adjustments across different colleges and schools. They are going to do less of this activity or that activity. There were some colleges that were more financially strapped. Different colleges and schools have managed their budgets in different ways. So, when [the recession hit in 2008], not everyone was in the same place.

DT: Is UT looking at revenues to increase funds?
DS: So a budget guy always assumes the most conservative projections. We are assuming a flat budget. The most difficult is to provide health insurance to our employees. Despite the fact of not having [any funds] other than a flat budget, we still have to fund these fringe benefits. So the answer to your question, no. I don’t see any obvious sources of revenue going forward.

DT: How are students likely going to be impacted?
DS: We will see what the next year brings. That’s when a lot of these cuts are going to be implemented. These are difficult financial circumstances, and [we] are trying to minimize the impact on students.

Printed on Wednesday, August 24, 2011 as: Vice provost discusses Deans' budget proposals.