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FIU does major painful cuts

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 PostPosted: Fri Jun 13, 2008 12:38 am   
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http://www.miamiherald.com/news/breakin ... 68396.html

Really, really bad news for FIU. A really sad day indeed.

More would-be students at Florida International University will be turned away, and those accepted will find overcrowded classes and overworked faculty advisors. Thirty-eight faculty and staff will lose their jobs. Six research centers will close. Twenty-three degree programs -- from dance to health sciences to humanities -- will cease to exist.

Call it pruning, cutting, or amputating -- all those words were used at a Board of Trustees meeting Thursday -- but FIU is shrinking in face of a $32 million budget shortfall, with no relief in sight.

''This doesn't bode well for Florida,'' said Bruce Hauptli, philosophy professor and chair of the Faculty Senate. ``The citizens of Florida did this by voting in the legislators who did this. You vote for the [tax] cuts, you're going to lose services.''

The deficit is the combined effect of a $14 million decrease in state funding, at the same time as price increases and inflation, university officials said.

The good news, such as it is: ''I don't foresee any more programs being cut,'' FIU President Modesto ''Mitch'' Maidique said after the meeting on FIU's University Park Campus.

Deep state budget cuts related to previous years' tax cuts and a faltering economy are affecting a wide range of government services, and the university system has not been spared: the University of Florida, for example, will lay off 400 people and reduce enrollment by 4,000 over the next four years.

The cuts at FIUinclude degree programs for K-12 teachers of English, math, science, social studies and exercise science at FIU's College of Education. The university produces half the new teachers hired by Miami-Dade Public Schools.

''We've got a tax strategy appropriate for a 19th century agrarian state, but we aspire to be a 21st century knowledge-based state,'' Maidique said.

To survive, FIU, with 38,000 students the largest university in South Florida, will scrounge money from coffee sales and recreation fees. The investment income generated by FIU's modest endowment, and next year's 6 percent tuition hike won't come close to closing the budget gap.

In years to come, Maidique, said, higher tuition and managed enrollment will become the norm. The university will pay more attention to profitable degree programs and corporate partnerships.

''It's a downsized version of our dreams,'' he said. ``But it's unchanged with respect to quality.''

Last month, about 700 people turned out to a university-sponsored ''town hall'' meeting to discuss the proposed cuts. Thursday, fewer than 100 showed.

Most of those were alumni, professors and students from the Industrial and Systems Engineering Department, some silently waving signs asking trustees to spare their program. The demonstrators claimed, contrary to a provost's report that the department lost $597,321 last year, that the department actually operated at a profit.

They argued that the department graduates far more traditionally underrepresented women and Hispanics than most engineering programs. They added that the demand for industrial and systems engineers will only increase in coming years, especially in service economies of Florida and Latin America.

But statistics, pleas, even tears, failed to sway the board. Hauptli was one of three trustees on the 13-member board who voted against cutting that engineering program.

The department will stay open long enough for the 385 students now enrolled to graduate. No new students will be accepted. Its professors will retire, be absorbed by other departments, or be laid off.

''I just had my [performance] review,'' said Parushohamam Damodaran, a young assistant professor. It went well -- perhaps too well. ``I figured, OK, I'm all set, so I go and buy a home.''

He may soon be looking elsewhere for a new job.


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 PostPosted: Fri Jun 20, 2008 8:25 am   
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Things like this are to be expected, you got to realize that this is all about image, thankfully, the writer is balanced and notes that it wouldn't have much of a difference, still, Image is everything.....

Posted on Wed, Jun. 18, 2008
A TV star exposed in FIU cutbacks
BY ANA MENENDEZ
Florida International University will lose six centers and 23 degree programs to budget cuts. Some 38 people will lose their jobs. Summer staff is on a four-day week and thermostats are set at 75 degrees.
And in President Modesto Maidique's office: a brand new 60-inch plasma TV.

The $5,800 set was ordered months ago, Maidique told me.

''Had the decision been placed in front of me six weeks ago to say buy this thing . . . I probably would have said no, this is not the time to buy it,'' he said.

The TV sits on a bookshelf in the part of Maidique's office used as a conference room. It replaces a broken 10 year-old set, said Vice President Sandra Gonzalez-Levy.

In normal times the question would be: Who cares? But these aren't normal times at FIU. And the low-grade grumbling about Mitch's TV speaks more to the rising anxiety of the university's faculty and students than the spending habits of its president.

''What you're getting is people who are very upset with what is happening,'' Gonzalez-Levy said. ``No one is more upset than the people who had to make the decision. [Maidique] tried to build this university for the last 22 years . . . it's like amputating a part of his soul when he does these cuts.''

THE IMPACT

In the context of the $32 million budget shortfall, a new TV has all the impact of an extra light bulb at Buckingham Palace.

But in the midst of painful cuts, it's an issue of seemliness.

''There's going to be lots of things that are going to be alleged and the university will certainly make some silly moves,'' said faculty senate chairman Bruce Hauptli, who had not heard about the new set and at first doubted it could be true.

Earlier this month, FIU unveiled a new logo and Hauptli protested it: ``I argued it wasn't the right time. There has to be sensitivity.''

The new logo features a panther baring its teeth. FIUSM.com quoted Maidique as saying that it represented the university's ''strength'' and ''aggressiveness,'' which in itself suggests a case of wishful projection.

Administrators and staff have tried to put a good face on the situation -- Hauptli said he was ''very proud of the way the university had handled the cuts.'' But there's no question that they will weaken FIU as we've known it. The elimination of the industrial engineering and education degrees, especially, will hurt a region that depends on graduates from those programs.

THE FACTORS

While many people put the blame where it belongs -- with the demagogues in the Legislature and the people who voted for them -- others seem convinced that all would be well were it not for the (choose one) football team, the stadium, the medical school. Or Mitch's plasma TV.

In fact, while you can argue that football is a needless luxury, it doesn't take money from academics. Student athletic fees pay for the team. And ticket sales, naming rights and other sources of money are paying for the new stadium, Gonzalez-Levy said.

The new medical school money comes from a different pot. And while the law school competes with other programs for state money, it has also taken a big hit in the current cuts, Hauptli said.

As for Mitch's new television set, it wasn't bought with state funds, Gonzalez-Levy said. The cash came out of the ''auxiliary account'' that comes from money-making businesses on campus such as the cafeteria.

Maidique and his staff use the set, she said, to make presentations and keep up with the news.

And now and then, one hopes, to catch some Happy Days reruns.


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