B y S a r a h G a r r e c h t
STAND BY YOUR man. The Arizona Board of Regents plans to do exactly that, at least when it comes to backing University of Arizona President Manuel T. Pacheco and Provost Paul Sypherd on program cuts.
At their June 1 meeting in Yuma, the regents unanimously agreed to kill the UA physical education and statistics programs, to eliminate the undergraduate degree in nuclear engineering and merge the department's other programs into the Department of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering.
The statistics and nuclear engineering moves were expected, and both cuts garnered the support of the Faculty Senate in May. According to regents' regulations for cutting programs with tenured faculty, the senate is required to form a review committee and present its findings to the president, who is not obligated to pay attention to faculty recommendations.
However, the physical education program culled vocal support from the Faculty Senate and the community. The senate review committee's report charged the UA administration with ignoring facts, drawing conclusions from flawed data and ignoring community needs. The senate also voted 24-8, with four abstentions, to denounce the administration's elimination proposal.
Yet the regents gave the faculty a loud message that its concerns are not worthy of notice. When W. Linn Montgomery, the Arizona Faculties Council chairman, said, "It's our institution. Faculty tenure is longer than administrations' tenure," the regents circled the wagons to guard Pacheco and Sypherd.
"I'm shocked to hear the faculty thinks it's their university," Regent Art Chapa said.
"We always respect the president's opinions," Regent John Munger said. "The president and provost are doing exactly what we asked them to do. If anybody has a problem with that, it's a problem with us."
Even Provost Sypherd was surprised at the overwhelming vote, he said after the motion carried.
"I thought it would carry, but I didn't imagine it would be unanimous," he said.
Patricia Fairchild isn't surprised. A physical education associate professor with 25 years invested in the university, she doesn't think the administration understands what it's doing.
"I can't believe the Board of Regents accepted what Pacheco said at face value. They didn't seem interested in why (Montgomery) and the Faculty Senate were so far away in their conclusions," she said.
"My job will be gone in 1998," Fairchild said. "I don't know why they picked P.E., because there were departments that didn't meet criteria (of previous review committees) and we did.
"I don't think they took into account the need in Southern Arizona (for physical education majors), nor the ability of the other schools to meet that need."
Meanwhile, Pacheco has yet to make his final recommendation on the controversial proposal to eliminate the UA's journalism department, but it's expected soon. As with physical education, the Faculty Senate review committee harshly criticized the recommendation and accused the administration of ignoring or twisting facts and violating procedure.
ELIMINATING PROGRAMS MEANS eliminating faculty jobs--exactly what the administration wants. IBM had to do it, so why not the UA?
Breaking faculty tenure is a taboo subject in university circles, where the "lifetime contract" is seen as a necessary guard against administrative retribution.
UA administrators project the annual savings from killing the programs will be $732,644 from physical education, $509,000 from statistics and the cost of one nuclear engineering department head. Neither the statistics or nuclear engineering maneuverings are expected to result in the loss of tenured faculty, since other departments will be absorbing the professors.
Physical education is another story. Despite a proposed transfer of some faculty to other departments, five of the program's eight tenured faculty will be released by 1998 when the program meets its official demise.
According to the regents' codes, "Each university shall devote its best efforts to securing alternative appointments within the university for any faculty member who is released as a result of reorganization."
"Best efforts" is a phrase of some ambiguity, at least to administrators. In a March 6 address to the Faculty Senate, Journalism Professor Jacqueline Sharkey said Sypherd had turned over the "best efforts" question to the university attorneys to figure out. Sharkey also recalled a conversation she had with Christopher Maloney, associate dean of social and behavioral sciences (which contains the journalism department).
Apparently, after more than 160 students stood before the Faculty Senate Review Committee to defend the journalism department, Maloney approached Sharkey, and admitted the fundamental issue behind the department closures was control of faculty "lines," or jobs. Drawing the university attorneys into the fracas was a way of establishing a legal precedent, and goading faculty members who disagree into a legal battle.
Provost Sypherd deemed Maloney's comments "odd," but agrees that eliminating faculty jobs is an administrative goal, which makes redeployment in the university improbable.
The university attorneys have failed to come up with a legal definition of "best efforts," "But it's logical that if you're going to eliminate programs and departments because of budget constraints, it doesn't make sense to then transfer that person and their salary to another part of the university," Sypherd said.
"It's my understanding that the Board of Regents' 'closure with release of faculty clause' was to lay off tenured faculty," he said.
Regarding Sharkey's biting statement to the faculty senate, Sypherd said, "Some of the comments were absolutely correct about trying to eliminate tenured faculty."
This appears to be the first time the UA administration has openly said it was trying to "lay off" tenured faculty. Since 80 percent of the university budget is consumed by payroll, Sypherd contends this is the best place to cut. He also said tenured faculty are not sacrosanct. There is also the question of dead wood floating around the university system.
"Tenure is founded in university culture, and within the last 10 years (when mandatory retirement was no longer law), lifetime employment now means lifetime lifetime, not lifetime until age 65," he said. "Is it reasonable that a person can be a faculty member until they decide they want to retire?
"How do you re-organize? How do you do that when it looks like you're going to have this same faculty forever?" he said. "As an operational concept, most public universities can eliminate faculty jobs if you eliminate the entire department."
Sypherd, whose salary is $141,110, enjoys tenure in the molecular and cellular biology department in addition to his provost duties.
The anti-education tide is flowing from the state and federal governments, which are not allocating enough money for universities to keep pace with rising costs. Sypherd said the budget grew by 1.5 percent this year, while the cost of running a university rises by 10 percent annually, to keep up with inflation.
Instead of spending the roughly $100 million needed for deferred maintenance (which includes fixing dilapidated sidewalks, making sure old air-conditioning towers don't topple over, and "whittling away at that unfunded mandate, the Americans With Disabilities Act,") the UA must use all its available funds to keep classes open for 35,000 students, Sypherd said.
Yet visible signs of university growth do not always illustrate financial well-being, he insists.
The new buildings that keep cropping up around campus are funded by bond money, and are not relevant to the $20 million Sypherd says he and Pacheco must cut within three to five years to "keep the UA competitive with peer institutions. It's money we need, not exactly money we owe," although he says the UA owes "millions and millions" on those construction bonds.
"When you've got an outstanding department like mechanical engineering, you have to give them what they need," Sypherd said. When asked why that same philosophy didn't apply to the UA's nationally-recognized journalism program, the provost said he was "tired of talking about journalism."
Cutline: UA President Manuel Pacheco and Regent Hank Amos are on the cutting edge. Photo by Sarah Garrecht.
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