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University News

U. details plans to cut millions from budget

By
Senior Staff Writer
Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Brown University Community Council met Tuesday night to discuss plans for the University to align its operations with economic reality, including consolidation of services, layoffs, tuition increases and funding for athletics.

Much of the discussion focused on the report that the ad hoc Organizational Review Committee released last week. According to the report, the ORC sought to identify “opportunities for improved efficiency and cost reduction through administrative restructuring.” The recommendations will be reviewed by the Corporation at its meeting later this month, said Executive Vice President for Finance and Administration Beppie Huidekoper.

Provost David Kertzer ’69 P’95 P’98, who presented the annual report of the standing University Resources Committee that he chairs, said his committee instructed the ORC, which formed last spring, to assume 20 percent less funding coming from the endowment this year than last year when making its budget recommendations.

“We’ll have something like $20 million less to spend than we had to spend this year out of the endowment alone,” he said. “We have to generate savings somewhere, and that is where the Organizational Review Committee comes in.”

Huidekoper said the ORC, of which she is a member, recognized Brown’s sense of community as a “very valuable asset” and hoped the community members present would let administrators know if the recommendations of the report have “hit the right balance” in optimizing services.

“We know it’s going to be a little bumpy along the way, but we really want to hear from you, as our community council,” she said. The council met in Salomon 101 instead of its scheduled location in Hillel with the hope of fostering a more active debate with members of the community in the larger space, Huidekoper said.

The 22-page ORC report, assembled by about 150 members of the community divided into 12 teams, calls for wide-ranging reforms of University structure that aim to reduce expenses by $14 million to offset the decline in endowment payout while making services run more smoothly, according to Huidekoper.

“We expect to see no detriment in the quality of the services,” she said. “In fact, if anything, there will be improvements in how we are supporting our students through a more coordinated set of work processes.”

But with the consolidation of services will come consolidation of staff as well, Huidekoper said.

“The goal here is to minimize the number of individuals at Brown who will lose their jobs,” she said. “But that doesn’t mean it will be zero.”

One way she said the University will minimize that impact is through its voluntary retirement program, which about 139 employees will take advantage of before the end of the year.

“A number of those 139 positions we will have to refill, but not all of them,” Huidekoper said, adding that those who leave will receive generous severance packages andoutplacement support.

Kertzer said he would not yet make public details on compensation or next year’s tuition increase, saying “it would put the Corporation in a very difficult position” if he released that information before the Corporation met.

He said last year’s modest tuition increases were “at the bottom of our peer group,” but the University has not actually increased its net tuition dollars in recent years because of steady increases in the financial aid budget.

Kertzer said URC members were “painfully aware” that though the University has “some of the most lavish financial aid in the United States,” compared to Brown’s limited peer group, “ours was not as generous as a few — Harvard, Yale, Princeton being almost off the charts, particularly for relatively upper-income, middle-class kids.”

Kertzer also recommended expanding enrollment to raise revenue. He said the URC’s recommendation to accept about 50 additional transfer students would not cause the types of problems for introductory classes and freshman dorm situations that enrolling more freshmen would cause.

When a BUCC member asked what administrators thought might be the aspect of the plan most likely to make headlines, Huidekoper responded that “there’s obviously a concern about athletics” because “it makes the news.”

“It’s been a painful realization that our budget for athletics is abysmally lower than that of our nearest competitor,” President Ruth Simmons said. “What we’re trying to do in athletics is very ambitious, but very under-funded. The consequences of that perhaps are obvious, and that is that our students might have a less satisfactory experience in their sport than their peers at our competing institutions.”

Simmons said that deliberations about cutting sports will go into next year and no decisions have yet been made.

“If we’re going to offer a varsity support, we should do that correctly, with all the protections that students should have for competing in a sport,” Simmons said. “That’s the wake-up call for us, to face up to the fact that we simply don’t have the resources to mount the number of team sports that we offer.”

BUCC member and Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Margaret Klawunn said a proposed fee for athletes would help the University not make “deeper cuts” as it considers how large of an athletic program it can support.

Professor of Africana Studies Anthony Bogues also reported to the Council on the status of Brown’s Haiti relief work. He called the immediate food and medical relief combined with strategies for long-term help a “Brownian” way of responding to the crisis. He praised the University’s “very alive” Web site, which contains information on the community’s efforts and dispatches from community members in Haiti.

Bogues also highlighted a program planned for Feb. 19 that will draw scholars on Haiti and relief workers to campus.

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