Eastern Washington University moves forward with budget cuts

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CHENEY, Wash. (AP) — Eastern Washington University is continuing to pursue campus-wide budget cuts while raising money for a new football stadium and routing funds into student-athlete scholarships, frustrating some faculty members who believe the administration is investing too heavily in athletics.

President Mary Cullinan, meanwhile, says the university is collecting donations for all kinds of projects and programs – not just the football stadium – and that the projected budget cuts of $3.5 million will have a negligible impact on students’ educational experience.

The Spokesman-Review reports that aced with declining enrollment and tuition revenue, EWU leaders announced they would undertake a 3% budget “realignment” last spring. Departments were asked to avoid filling vacant positions and limit overtime and travel expenses.

“The idea is to preserve faculty and preserve academic programs, but reduce the number of middle managers, which is department chairs and dean positions,” Cullinan told the newspaper. “It’s really just that administrative layer. … It doesn’t really affect the day-to-day life of faculty and students very much.”

Some tenured faculty members have taken buyouts, and administrators are working on a plan to merge EWU’s seven colleges into four. The College of Business, for example, will be folded into a larger unit tentatively named the College of Professional Studies, said David May, EWU’s interim provost.

The College of Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics and the College of Health Science & Public Health will remain intact, May said. Details of the restructuring are still being worked out.

Administrators say they have no plan to eliminate majors, minors or certificates currently offered to students.

The budget cuts and restructuring have frustrated some professors, including David Bunting, the chairman of the economics department.

“First of all, there’s been really no discussion with the faculty,” Bunting said. “Departments are being joined or merged as subunits without rhyme or reason.”

May, however, said faculty suggestions have guided most of the restructuring process so far.

“We’re kind of at a point now where it’s not possible to satisfy all of the players,” he said.

Political science professor Jim Headley also expressed concern about the cuts. At a recent meeting, he said, department chairs and program directors were asked to consider getting rid of things like copy machines and phone lines.

Like all EWU departments, the athletics department took a 3% reduction in state funding for the 2020 fiscal year – a cut of nearly $174,000, said EWU spokesman Dave Meany.

But the athletics department has other sources of revenue – including ticket sales, media rights and private fundraising – and its income and spending needs vary based on the performance of its teams.

Meany said the department was projected to spend about $16.3 million last year, but it ultimately spent nearly $18.1 million because of the football team’s run to the national championship game in Frisco, Texas. This year, he said, the department’s projected budget is $16.8 million.

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