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Budget update -- March 2003

NOTE: The following e-mail message was sent by President Robert A. Corrigan to SFSU faculty and staff on March 9, 2004

Dear Faculty and Staff Colleagues:

Enough has happened in the last week to call for another budget update to you. We have held two Town Hall sessions where some frank and creative ideas were discussed. The statewide budget propositions that greatly affect us have passed. Finally, the unofficial (until certified this week by the Student Affairs Advisory Committee) student fee referendum results are out, showing that students have decisively approved the Academic Program, Career Center and Health Center requests and narrowly defeated the Athletics fee.

Some of the recent news is undeniably good. Proposition 55 will provide us with approximately $4 million to help equip the remodeled library and perhaps provide planning money for a new classroom/office facility on 19th Avenue. The passage of Proposition 57 averts the prospect of even more devastating cuts to the CSU and other state-funded agencies and betters the chances that the Governor's January budget proposal for us will hold.

The record-setting turnout for our Student Fee Referendum was as striking as the outcome. Almost one-third of all students -- 8,558 -- cast a ballot. That is a 400% increase over the previous high for an SFSU student election. The referendum is advisory to me, and I believe that with such a turnout, it gives us a reliable sense of student opinion. If the two new fees, Academic Instruction and Career Center, receive Chancellor's Office approval, and we add the Health Center fee (which, as a revision of an existing fee, does not require that approval), we will, as my earlier budget messages have stated, be able to save hundreds of classes from being cut.

Now the difficult news. Even if our budget for 2004-05 is no worse than that proposed by the Governor, even if we receive Chancellor Reed's approval for the $75 per semester Academic Fee, and even if we continue to economize as determinedly as we have done over the last two years, we are facing cumulative budget cuts so substantial as to dramatically change this university.

In three years (2002/3, 2003/4, and 2004/05), we will have taken permanent, net cuts of at least $26.3 million -- this from an operating budget for the current year that totals just under $225 million.(For a succinct account of these cuts, see the budget presentation made by Vice President Morishita at both Town Hall sessions). We project a shortfall of at least $11 million for next year, even allowing for relief from the Student Fee Referendum. To put this in perspective, the 2003-04 salary budget for the College of Business is $14 million, as is Creative Arts. Education is $9 million and HHS $12 million.

From these figures, several hard realities emerge. First, this money will not be restored. Yes, the state will eventually recover and we will again receive funding for increased enrollment, but we will not see that lost $26.3 million returned to our base budget. That leads to a second reality: While some urgent, shorter-term choices must be made in the coming months, we need to act in the context of permanent, long-term decisions -- decisions that are likely to reshape the university. Third, across-the-board, pro rata cuts are no longer an option. Provost Gemello illustrated this point at one Town Hall, when he pointed out that the preliminary 2004/05 budget allocations he gave the College deans amount to a reduction of 170 faculty positions (out of some 1000). Cuts of that magnitude must be strategic, not universal.

At one Town Hall session, a faculty member asked whether the number of colleges was open for reconsideration. As I responded, there is nothing sacrosanct about the present configuration of our academic program. I know that this kind of discussion is alarming -- and in one respect I want it to be. In the last two years, the Cabinet may have done its work too well. We have found ways to handle multi-million dollar budget cuts without causing much visible campus change. But we have come to the end of that road, and all of us will see and feel the effects of our coming decisions.

This need not be all dire. If we are, in the words of Senate Chair Jim Edwards, willing to "redefine ourselves as departments," some very good things may emerge. But this is an unavoidably anxiety-provoking time, and the best way of coping with that anxiety -- and of making good decisions -- is to communicate fully and openly and work together. I was pleased to hear Senate Chair Edwards say at the Town Hall that in his view, "the spirit of shared governance is more alive on this campus than anywhere else in the CSU." He urged the audience of staff and faculty to inform themselves and get involved as budget ideas are circulated in the coming months.

For the good of the University, this must be -- and will be -- a highly consultative process. The Academic Senate and CUSP II are already deep in discussion. We have a number of Academic Senate policies to guide reorganization or discontinuance of academic programs, schools or colleges. Our long- and short-term planning will be focused on Academic Affairs because, in the words of Willie Sutton "that's where the money is" -- some 70% of the University's budget.

That is not to say that only faculty will be involved in the discussions and decisions that lie ahead. The largely invisible cuts to which I referred earlier hit hard at areas outside of Academic Affairs, as witness the withdrawal of general fund support for the Career Center and Counseling and Psychological Services, and the reductions taken by Advancement, Administration and Finance, and the Executive area. Furthermore, staff play a vital role throughout the University, enabling every area, including Academic Affairs, to meet its mission. You, our staff, are -- second only to students -- the largest group in the University community. We need your insights, your collective wisdom, your ideas as we go forward with this "reimagination" of our University. You are essential parties to these discussions of our future. Your voices are represented on CUSP and the University Budget Committee, and we have heard -- and will continue to hear -- from you directly at our Town Halls and future meetings. I also welcome e-mail communication at

We will have more meetings. We will continue to post budget updates and information on the SFSU budget page. We will maintain the openness and transparency of our budget process. We need that approach now more than ever.

-- Robert A. Corrigan, president

Robert A. Corrigan President


San Francisco State University

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Last modified July 27, 2004 by University Communications