Proposed budget cuts are targeting arts and culture resources on campus disproportionately, sparking a reaction from the university senate.
Provost Jaynath Banavar released his recommended budget cuts to address the budget crisis at the University of Oregon last Wednesday. Of the $11.6 million that must be cut from the university’s general fund budget, a total of 10 percent — or $1.2 million of the cuts are coming from museums, the Labor Education and Resource Center and the Oregon Bach festival.
Ed Davis, Earth Science professor and museum curator for the Museum of Natural and Cultural History, pushed a resolution through the senate requesting the provost consider a more equitable cut across all academic disciplines.
“This is the first time in my experience at UO that people have been asked to cut more than 3 percent or so,” Davis said. “It’s unprecedented in my experience.”
The university must cut $11.6 million from the general fund, $8.9 million of which must come from the academic units, according to a letter from UO President Michael Schill last March. Student tuition dollars and federal funding make up the general fund at UO.
UO Administration is planned to get a three percent budget reduction and academic units will get no more than 2.5 percent reduction, according to Schill’s letter.
The Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art is facing a budget cut of $314,000 — or 15 percent of its $2.07 million budget. The Museum of Natural and Cultural History’s budget is proposed to be reduced by $225,000 – 17 percent of its $1.37 million budget.
These cuts could eliminate or reduce some of the museum's programs in order to avoid layoffs, including exhibits, community events, and programs for UO students. It is too soon to say which programs will be affected. The Museum of Natural and Cultural History will have to cut four or five of its graduate employee positions as well, Davis said.
The Oregon Bach Festival is facing a 25 percent decrease of its $1 million budget and the LERC is getting hit the hardest with a $488,000 budget cut — 45 percent of its $1 million budget.
The LERC, which recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, focuses on understanding how labor unions work and what makes unions most effective, Davis said.
“The idea is that tuition dollars, first and foremost, are placed in service of students. While these organizations serve students, they don’t do so as directly as the schools and colleges that provide instruction and advising and take care of our students,” Banavar said.
Banavar and Chief Financial Officer Jamie Moffitt hosted a town hall on April 22 to discuss the proposed budget cuts with students, faculty and community members.
Davis heard about the proposed budget cuts before they were made public in mid-April. On April 15, Kitty Piercy, former mayor of Eugene, posted on Facebook that she heard about the cuts. Then, Davis had an emergency staff meeting at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History to discuss what to do about the cuts.
“It’s a zero sum game, everything has to go somewhere. In the presentation I gave to the senate I suggested that if we spread it over multiple big units it won’t feel like as difficult of a cut,” Davis said.
Banavar said spreading the burden of the cuts across campus would take away important parts of the university, including the work put into Tykeson Hall.
“It would cut some of the essential things that students need. It would cut educational faculty who do the teaching,” Banavar said. “It would really hurt the students.”
Davis submitted his resolution to the senate on April 18 and the senate voted to suspend its rules in order to vote on it.
Typically, the senate waits three weeks after a resolution is submitted before voting. This allows for an opportunity for discussion and reflection before the resolution is up to a vote. Considering the short timeline, the senate suspended the rules and it was later voted on and passed.
The resolution did not call for action from the president. Instead, it called for consideration from the president and provost to reconsider these large cuts to arts and culture.
Regardless of what the president chooses to do, he has to respond to the senate with a letter about why the cuts are being made.
“The cuts that are facing these units are of a large enough size that they are exceptional, and such exceptionally large cuts should be justified in an exceptional way,” Davis said.
Editor's note: This article was updated to reflect the variety of programs that could lose funding at the Museum of Natural and Cultural History, rather than specific programs.