Chico State braces for budget bummer

Crappy new year.

Chico State University faculty, staff and students will be welcomed back to school after the winter break with news they’re already dreading: the governor’s opening budget salvo.

“This will be a budget different from the budgets we have had before, and the simple ‘why’ is [that] the state is out of money,” Interim President Scott McNall reported to the Academic Senate on Dec. 16. He said that with the already-planned 5-percent cut, plus two more expected cuts structured at 1 percent each, “under a best-case scenario we have about a 7-percent challenge.”

“Challenge” is academic-speak for trouble. If Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Jan. 10 budget treats higher education as badly as is expected, it means big trouble.

The university is already rallying legislators in an attempt to educate them about what budget cuts would mean to the college and the community’s economy as a whole. Last week the local University Advisory Committee met with Assemblyman Rick Keene, R-Chico, Assemblyman Doug LaMalfa, R-Richvale, and Sen. Sam Aanestad, R-Grass Valley. “I believe they are all prepared to do their very best to help us,” McNall said.

He said that whatever happens with the budget, fixing it will be a collaborative effort involving all campus groups. Some of the ideas being batted about include reducing the reliance on brick-and-mortar for instructional purposes and charging more for certain types of programs.

McNall pointed out that the $15 billion bond Schwarzenegger is placing on the March 2 ballot does not even address the structural deficit.

Even as the university prepares its own budget, the state’s won’t be fully known until late spring, if then.

After McNall’s report, Academic Senate member Prof. Sam Edelman said he wished that faculty members had been invited to join the administrative, student and business community members at the meeting with the legislators. But McNall said it was the committee’s call, and both it and the representatives wanted the chosen constituency.

Also at the meeting:

• Senate Chairman Len Fisk mentioned that several students told him they had finals during “dead week,” the time that’s traditionally been set aside for study. “That’s a no-no,” Fisk said. “We’re supposed to use that truly as a dead week. … Finals the week before finals are not necessarily the way we want to play the game.”

• It was announced that after 35 years with the university Ed Masterson, associate vice president for university development and enhancement services, is retiring.

• The annual "bests" were announced. The outstanding professor for 2004 is Laird Easton of the History Department, the outstanding teacher is Sara Trechter, the outstanding faculty service award goes to Paul Spear, and the outstanding academic adviser is Richard Narad.