February 6, 2009

Campus life budget to see six-percent cut

Vice-President for Campus Life Kimberly Goff-Crews announced Thursday that her division will cut six percent of its operating budget, making hers one of the first University divisions to unveil the size of its anticipated budget reduction this year.

The update comes as divisions across the University plan cuts to meet challenges brought on by the economic downturn.

“We’re committed to moving forward based on new realities,” Goff-Crews said. “We’re either slowing some things down, continuing to invest in certain things, maybe eliminating things that are no longer relevant. We have a range of things to look at across the division.”

Even as specific cuts in Goff-Crews’s division remain undecided, the announcement aimed to keep the community informed about how budget cuts will impact University programs and student life during what she called “interesting economic times.”

“We have a sense of where we might be going, but nothing’s decided until we have further conversations,” she said. “We haven’t really made choices, but the process is now to take what we think we want to do and have a conversation before we do make them.”

Goff-Crews cited student health, financial aid, and career services as major priorities that she aims to continue supporting despite the cuts. Anticipating layoffs in her 350-person division—budgeted at $60 million and encompassing such varied functions as the Student Care Center, athletics, and Office of the Reynolds Club and Student Activities—she stressed that plans will not be finalized until she gets further student input.

“One of the things I don’t want to have to announce a set of decisions without having had some conversations with students,” she said. “I think it’s unfair.”

Goff-Crews said she sees opportunities to streamline her division by cutting needless costs, such as some money marked for publications—no longer relevant, she said, as print materials migrate to the Internet. In this vein, she said that while some cuts could be temporary, most would be permanent, generally taking effect next school year.

Goff-Crews’s division, and divisions University-wide, were asked to compile prospective budget cuts of three, six, and nine percent after President Robert Zimmer warned that reduced returns on the endowment, fund-raising shortfalls, and the cost of borrowing money would impact the University’s financial health. Comparable to peer institutions, administrators estimated last month that the endowment has fallen 25 percent.

Goff-Crews stressed the importance of candidness with students, noting that that she has kept in touch with Student Government and will meet with students in the coming weeks to hear their concerns prior to finalizing her budget, anticipated sometime this spring.

Goff-Crews also encouraged students encountering immediate financial troubles to get in touch with their area deans.