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March 6, 1997

Most plans expected by provost this week

Provost James Maher said he expects to receive long-range plans from nearly all of the Provost area schools and the four regional campuses by the end of this week.

March 3 was the deadline. "About half of them [schools and campuses] actually got their plans in to my office on Monday, and they're coming in rapidly," Maher said yesterday. The exceptions are the Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS) and the law school, which are expected to turn in their plans late next week.

Maher has asked units to provide detailed answers (including budget documentation) to the following questions: What would your school do if it had its current budget to start a brand new school? How close can your school come to achieving its goals by reallocating 5 percent of its budget each year over the next 10 years, from lower priority units to higher priority ones? What must the school cut in order to accomplish its goals? "Each plan will be read by the members of the Provost area planning and budgeting committee, by at least two senior staff in the Provost's office, and by me," Maher said. "I won't have any comments for the deans or anybody else about the plans until I've done my own reading and gotten the advice of all those others who are going to read them." The provost said he plans to respond in writing to the plans in late April — "if possible, with comments on my intentions for the fiscal year 1998 budget." The Provost area budgeting system requires an annual 5 percent reallocation in each school. "Half of that money is at the school's disposal, as long as they use it to advance their most important projects," Maher explained. "The other 2.5 percent represents a central tax available to the Provost office for reallocation among the schools. That reallocation process can include giving the funds back to the school from which they were generated, to advance the school's high priority projects." Maher said he has no sense yet of how Provost area employment and enrollments may shift as a result of the long-range planning process. "But I would say that, in general, there is a scarcity of resources in most of the schools. To some extent, that reflects an emphasis on adding to the faculty over the years rather than making sure that the existing faculty were fully supported. That tendency is most pronounced in FAS," he said.

FAS is a special case because of its sheer size and complexity (more than 50 departments, centers and programs) plus the school's budget crisis this year, which necessitated a 6 percent cut in each department and a $1.4 million bailout by the central administration.

Maher has criticized FAS for increasing its number of tenured and tenure-stream faculty from 495 to 555 over the last decade, as the school's enrollment was declining by 5 percent.

Planning in FAS has involved not only a planning and budgeting committee, as at most schools, but also a six-member faculty advisory committee. Drafting and re-drafting a plan and getting it approved by those groups has delayed the process within FAS.

Law Dean Peter Shane said his school's plan will be late for three reasons: the school is just completing a faculty search that will impact budget data; Shane didn't want to finalize the plan at a time when faculty, staff and students are absent because of spring break; and the school is undergoing re-accreditation.

"We're going through our every-seven-year re-accreditation with the American Bar Association. We also had to produce a self-study for that process, which is itself a 240-page document, not including appendices." Between that report and the one for the Provost office, "We're deforesting a substantial portion of western Pennsylvania," Shane said.

Maher said the planning and budgeting process is intended to help, not hurt, the schools. "But it is important for the schools to feel a heavy responsibility, to think through what their most important projects are and to make sure those projects are on track," he said.

— Bruce Steele

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