Recent budget cuts at Southern Illinois University will impact everything from student-worker opportunities to research resources and on-campus events.
University officials announced this past week the details of the $13.5 million trimming-down, which goes into effect in mid-October.
The cuts impact departments from a broad cross-section of the university, from Intercollegiate Athletics to Morris Library. SIU spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith said the move was unavoidable, given a reduction in funding based on lower enrollment this year and stalemate on budget talks in Springfield.
Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed reducing public universities’ funding by 31.5 percent this year. This spring, a legislative proposal that did not pass would have cut SIU’s funds by 8.75 percent.
“The 8.75 (percent) is the best scenario for a cut,” Goldsmith said. “If the cuts are higher, if we get a budget, we are going to have some additional conversations.”
In a move SIU System President Randy Dunn described as a “cash grab,” nearly $10 million of the total cost-reduction will come from non-recurring cuts. Goldsmith said most departments offered not to fill vacant positions this year in order to make up the difference.
Asked Friday how recurring reductions will impact programs and services, leaders of several campus units said student-worker positions, in many cases, will be the first to go.
WSIU: Support from Viewers Like You
In the paring-down, public radio station WSIU is losing $97,000. That’s 10 percent of their state funding, or three percent of their total cash flow.
Greg Petrowich, the station’s executive director, said the loss of funds will mean a greater emphasis on fundraising – and could mean the loss of student-assisted programming and student educational opportunities.
“We’re used to the drill,” Petrowich said. “It’s unfortunate because it gets in the way of our mission. You just want to do good work and not worry about where the revenue comes from. But that’s not in the cards.”
Programs such as River Region Evening Edition, a news program produced by students since 1970; Scholastic Hi-Q, an academic game show; and Little Egypt Live, which features local live music, each stand to lose in the cut-backs.
Petrowich said it’s unlikely the shows will be scrapped entirely – unless legislators pass an even harsher budget and more cuts are necessary. But they might have to pare back, which could impact the number of student educational opportunities available.
“At some point you have to reduce something,” Petrowich said. “There’s only so many things we can do. We know eliminating PBS is not an option, so then you look at the local productions.”
He added, “It it is unlikely that River Region would go, but everything might get scaled to some degree."
Station employees will reach out on the air to try to fill the gap via listener support, Petrowich said.
Morris Library: Sharing resources
Between its two departments, Library Affairs and Library Affairs Acquisitions, Morris Library is absorbing nearly $460,000 in reductions – one of the heftier cuts, at least in terms of total dollars.
Co-Interim Dean Susan Tulis said the five percent reduction hits hard – especially when it comes to research resources. At a meeting next week, library administrators will discuss which online databases from which to unsubscribe. Databases allow students to access various journals and other digital works.
Without access, students will have to request resources through library-sharing services.
Tulis said the department also is giving up two civil service positions.
“The main hope is, you give it up thinking at some point things will get better and you can get that position back,” she said. “At this point I’m not sure when that would happen.”
And Tulis shudders to think what will happen if legislators vote through a deeper cut than the 8.75 percent previously proposed.
“If it ends up being more, if the (SIU) cuts end up being 10 percent, all bets are off,” she said.
In the meantime, Tulis said her graduate assistants are waiting with bated breath to find out if their contracts will be renewed in the spring. SIU only authorized graduate assistantships through the end of the calendar year, in the hopes that a state budget will be forthcoming.
Without state funds, those obligations become more and more different for the university to fulfill, Goldsmith said.
Paul Simon Public Policy Institute: Fewer speakers
The Paul Simon Public Policy Institute long has been a bastion of thoughtful extracurricular programming – from the Pizza and Politics series to the one-off political talks that bring high-profile lawmakers to the Carbondale campus.
The department will absorb a $54,368 cut – or 10 percent of its state funding – this fall.
Director David Yepsen said the cut will mean fewer events this year – not just because they cost money, but because they require a lot of work. And the institute will have fewer hands on deck thanks to the cuts.
They’re losing a part-time bookkeeping position, a graduate assistantship and a handful of part-time student worker positions.
Though he understands the cuts are a necessary step in SIU’s reinvention, Yepsen said he can’t help but be frustrated.
“This whole thing is just a huge distraction for everybody because we have to spend time with this as opposed to doing the jobs we thought we signed up to do,” he said.
And the timing could have been better.
“What is most frustrating is this may not be the end of it,” Yepsen said. “We still don’t know what the state’s going to do. I wish we could cut the tail off the dog once instead of an inch at a time.”