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Behind the budget: 3 of 5

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Photo: Constantin Ichim

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Source: UW Counseling Center

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Source: UW Libraries

In one year, the UW Libraries lost 20 percent ($2 million) of their funding to purchase materials, and the UW Career Center’s funding was cut by 40 percent. The libraries and the career center, among other student services, have felt the effects of the first round of budget cuts and are preparing for the next.

Most student-support services have had to cut back on staff and services to remain open in the face of cuts to state funding for the university.

“When we talk about the student experience here, we talk about those kinds of things, what it means to be advised well and supported well … to have opportunities to research,” said Ed Taylor, dean of undergraduate academic affairs.

However, further cuts to state funding with the supplemental budget for the 2010-11 academic year threaten the university’s ability to support students the way it does today, Taylor said.

“If we’ve served [students] well, they are our future writers, our future physicians,” he said. “That kind of educational commitment can’t be compromised and can’t be misunderstood.” »

For the 2009-10 academic year, the UW Libraries budget was cut by a total of 13.5 percent, just over $3.6 million.

In addition to the overall 13.5-percent cut, each year the library has to pay for “serials inflation” — a 7- to 8-percent, or $500,000 to $600,000 yearly increase in the price of newspapers, magazines and scholarly journals.

However, the libraries don’t have an extra $500,000 to spare this year. UW Libraries bought 7,000 fewer books this year compared to the 2008-09 academic year and lost 2,800 online and print subscriptions. Some of these dropped subscriptions include Books in Print Online and the Encyclopedia Britannica Online.

“We’re essentially relying on Wikipedia,” said Tim Jewell, director of information resources and scholarly communication for UW Libraries.

The UW Libraries’ personnel budget also took a hit, losing $1.94 million this year. Twenty-nine full-time-equivalent staff positions, including librarians, classified and professional staff, and student positions were eliminated, and the libraries are not filling any open positions.

To preserve hours of operation and services at Odegaard Undergraduate Library and Suzallo/Allen Library, several smaller library branches, like the art, drama, math, and physics and astronomy libraries, were closed or consolidated, and the social-work library will close June 30, said Cynthia Fugate, associate dean of libraries.

While business hours are being decreased and smaller branches closed, student demand for the libraries has increased, she said.

“Overall, it’s up 11.5 percent from last year,” Fugate said. “What’s happening is that you’ve got more contention for seating space, for access to computers, and an increased load on wireless networks … that’s probably something the students have noticed.”

While the UW Libraries are coping with the effects of budget cuts, their staff are concerned about the long-term effects on the research goals of the university, Jewell said.

“One of the things that we’re worried about is that we’re a very research-intensive university,” he said, “If we can’t provide some of the materials that [students and faculty] need in a convenient way, then that will tend to undercut their ability to get the grants which will feed into the funding for the whole organization.”

The Gateway Advising Center, a unit within Undergraduate Academic Affairs (UAA), aids undergraduate students searching for a class, a major, or a direction for their studies at the UW. As the number of students admitted to the UW increases, the Gateway Center would normally hire more advisers to cope with that increased demand, but cuts have forced them to remain stagnant or reduce their advising staff, Taylor said.

The Gateway Center’s budget was cut by 10 percent for the 2009-10 academic year, the equivalent of 1.5 full-time positions. The center eliminated one vacant position and reduced several advisers to part time in order to avoid layoffs.

This has reduced advisers’ ability to meet one-on-one with students, said Deborah Wiegand, director of the Gateway Center.

The Gateway Center has also cut funding for academic advisers designated to help students as they transfer from community colleges to the UW.

While the $200,000 in temporary funding allocated to UAA by Provost Phyllis Wise has enabled the Gateway Center to maintain operations for the 2009-10 academic year, the UAA administration is preparing for another possible 5-percent cut next year.

Classroom Support Services (CSS), also under UAA, maintains computers, projectors and most other equipment within classrooms and contributes to classroom design and acoustics in lecture halls. Their duties range from making sure podiums in Kane Hall have batteries for cordless microphones to replacing projector light bulbs, said Roberta Hopkins, director of CSS.

With the cuts, the total amount of state and local money allocated to CSS, $1.6 million does not cover their payroll costs, Hopkins said.

For the 2009-10 academic year, CSS’s budget was cut 8 percent, about $99,000. The department had to eliminate one full-time position and cut back another by 20 percent.

In previous years, CSS routinely hired between 50 and 70 students each quarter, but this year, CSS only hired between 30 and 40 students per quarter.

CSS received $460,000 in temporary funding allotted by Wise, which they used to replace 60 outdated projectors in classrooms.

“We’re already pretty much pared down to the bone,” she said. “How much more can you cut before you really start hurting?”

CSS is preparing for a 5-percent, $58,154 cut for the 2010-11 academic year.

The UW Career Center was hit harder than many units at the UW. For the 2009-10 academic year, its budget was cut by 40 percent, $260,000 of their $650,000 annual budget.

Unlike some student-support services, the Career Center was not able to avoid layoffs. The cut would have forced the Career Center to lay off five of its 15 employees and limit the rest to nine-, 10-, or 11-month contracts, if not for $185,000 in temporary funding from the Office of Student Life.

Even with the temporary funds, the career center had to lay off 2 counselors and eliminate one vacant position, as well as six hourly student positions.

The center now has to find creative ways to increase revenue, said Susan Terry, director of the Career Center. This includes possibly charging employers for interviewing students on campus or posting jobs on HuskyJobs.

Like other student services at the UW, the Career Center has had increased demand for fewer resources. This year, student attendance at career fairs and workshops increased by 7 percent, while the center’s ability to meet with individual students decreased by 20 percent due to the cuts.

For the 2009-11 biennium, the University of Washington Police Department (UWPD) was cut by 7 percent, $360,000. The department had to eliminate four vacant full-time officer positions.

“I think as long as we’re not laying off … we’ll be able to provide the current level of security,” said UWPD Commander Jerome Solomon. “If it gets deeper than that, we should be able to make adjustments, maybe to schedules, to shifts, so we have the same coverage.”

The UW Counseling Center’s $679,000 budget was cut by about 11 percent. The reduction equated to $75,000, the equivalent of one full-time employee, for the 2009-10 academic year.

However, the counseling center also received $75,000 in temporary funding from the Office of Student Life, allowing them to avoid layoffs and continue many of the services they provide to the UW community, including classes on stress reduction and study tips.

In anticipation of budget cuts, in August 2009, the counseling center closed on Fridays, and every employee took a 20-percent pay cut in order to save money for busier times during the school year.

Although they haven’t lost personnel yet, Director Ellen Taylor said the counseling center has been unable to hire additional counselors to deal with increasing student demand.

“Anyone can do that in the short run, but it will start to have adverse impact in the longer run,” she said.

«Some student-support services have seen significant cuts, while others have not been particularly affected. Some have been forced to lay off staff and others to reduce hours or cancel programs. All of them are attempting to maintain current levels of services to students, with fewer resources.

“My mantra is … how do we do less with less and do it well?” Terry said.

The consensus seems to be that departments can cope with budget cuts for the time being. The worry, directors say, is what will happen in the future.

“I think it’s the kind of thing that is not sustainable,” Taylor said.

Reach reporter Natalie Johnson at news@dailyuw.com.

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