In today’s Athens News, Terry Smith has an excellent editorial arguing that it’s poor strategy – and just plain wrong – for OU officials to claim we can sustain additional budget cuts without harming our core academic mission:
Ohio University officials are doing their best to make the argument that upcoming state budget cuts – with some estimates at 10-20 percent or more of the state subsidy – don’t necessarily mean “a reduction in academic quality.”
I appreciate their spirit, as well as the need to keep a stiff upper lip. It wouldn’t do to come out and confess the obvious — that losing this amount of money, as much $15 million to $25 million in the next fiscal year, has to result in one of two things. Either 1) OU won’t be able to do as much for students’ educations; or 2) if they are able to maintain academic quality, they’ll have to admit that they misspent all that money before. Other than a combination of the two, there’s no third option.
To anyone who teaches or studies at OU, the example of the past year or two of budget cutting should be enough proof that when you don’t fill teaching vacancies with professors or experienced instructors, academic quality will suffer. Likewise if you have to cut classes or pack them with more students, while reducing academic support services.
When times are good, colleges boast their doctorate-loaded faculty and breadth and depth of curriculum. So the converse must be true — that when you have fewer professors, fewer classes and more crowded classes, that’s nothing to brag about.
Expect this trend to continue and accelerate under the next, draconian stage of budget cuts. …
At some point in the future, God willing, the state budget situation will improve, and the people of Ohio and their leaders will remember that investing in higher education translates into both a better economy and more and better jobs.
At that time, OU and other Ohio institutions of higher learning will want to build an argument that they’ve suffered under persistent budget cuts, and that in order to improve flagging academic quality, they desperately need more money.
It will be difficult to make that argument if OU officials have been stating all along that the university’s academic quality hasn’t been hurt by budget cuts.
This is just the gist of the argument; the entire editorial is worth a read.