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In 2000, my predecessor, President Larry Faulkner, identified the need for a small group of leaders to advise him on UT’s complex budget. The resulting University Budget Council has been a very valuable tool for helping direct our funds toward our institutional priorities. Today I’m announcing that, for the first time, we have established dedicated positions on the council for a faculty member and a student.

Professor Andrea Gore of the College of Pharmacy will serve as the first faculty member, and Natalie Butler, a Plan II senior, has agreed to serve as our first student member. (Natalie happens to be Student Government president this year, but this is not an ex officio position for the SG president.)

In addition to these two new seats, the council includes the president, executive vice president and provost, vice provost, chief financial officer, vice president for university operations, budget director, and deputy to the president for a total of nine.

I believe having a faculty member and a student as permanent positions within the council will add two important dimensions to this deliberative body, will help us better incorporate the perspective of those crucial constituencies, and demonstrates our commitment to transparency.

I look forward to getting Andrea’s and Natalie’s counsel on our university’s priorities.

Hook ’em Horns,
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Budget Update June 2011

June 01, 2011

I wanted to share this message, which I sent to our faculty and staff today:

Dear Colleagues,

The regular session of the Legislature ended on Monday, and I want to give you an update.  In the current budget, which must be completed during the special session, the 2012-2013 budget for UT Austin will be down by 16.5% from the original 2010-2011 budget.

This represents a $92.1 million decrease in funding for the 2012-2013 biennium compared to 2010-2011. The impact of this is complex and could change as a result of action taken in the special session. But if these changes stand, the budget reductions will be close to the cuts that the units were anticipating. Budget reductions of this scale will be painful, but careful planning by the University Budget Council, the deans, department chairs, and vice presidents will make them manageable.

The cost of group insurance may increase, and there may be revisions to annual deductible amounts and copayments. The employer contribution to retirement plans could also be affected.

Finally, there is the question of how this budget will affect salaries for faculty and staff.  That decision has yet to be made. The University Budget Council will review the situation and reach a decision by the end of June. And of course, I will keep you informed.

I know there has been a great deal of uncertainty about our budget, and I want you to know that we are doing our best to minimize the negative impact of these cuts on our people and programs.

I appreciate everything you do for UT.

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Budget Message

January 27, 2011

I wanted to share this message, which I sent to our faculty and staff yesterday:

Dear Colleagues:

The 82nd Legislature is under way, and news reports have focused on the difficult budgetary challenges facing our state and proposed cuts to higher education and public schools.

Our elected officials must make some tough choices during this session, and those choices will have a significant impact on our university.

I know we are all concerned about how we will be affected by the state’s budget shortfall.  Budgetary issues will be debated in the coming months.

I cannot predict how these deliberations will turn out, but I want to assure you that we have been preparing for this scenario for more than a year and a half. Thanks to the hard work of our provost, deans, vice presidents, and many of you across the campus, we have made significant progress in examining our financial situation, cutting costs, improving efficiency, and planning for a possible reduction in state funding.

This uncertainty is challenging and stressful. I understand how important it is to keep you informed on developments that affect the future of our university.  I also understand that budget cuts are a greater burden for our staff.

Every time I go to our Capitol I am mindful that I represent the interests of faculty, staff, students, and alumni who make The University of Texas at Austin one of the world’s leading institutions of higher education.

We will continue to pursue our mission to become the nation’s leading public research university.

The quality of our university is the result of the dedication, talent, and commitment of all of you.  With your help, I believe that we can emerge from this period as a strong and vibrant institution better poised to pursue our vision to be the best.

Thank you for your continuing support.

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Budget Update

June 04, 2010

I sent this message to our faculty and staff earlier today.

You may be aware that on May 28 the Governor, Lieutenant Governor, and Speaker of the House directed state agencies to submit appropriations requests for the state’s 2012-2013 biennial budget that include a possible 10% budget reduction.  This is in addition to a similar directive on May 18 to implement a 5% reduction for the 2010-2011 biennium.

These measures are being taken in response to the economic recession and the resulting weakness in state sales tax revenues.

In early May UT Austin completed plans to reduce general revenue spending by 5% for the current biennium.  In the weeks ahead, we will consult University leadership, including representatives of the faculty and staff, regarding how we will proceed with our plans for the possibility of deeper budget cuts as directed by the state.

At this point, I cannot say how these developments will affect our University.  They do have the potential to disrupt our plans for a 2% merit raise pool for fiscal year 2011 for faculty and staff.  Merit raises remain a high priority and we will do our best to preserve them.

I want to thank the deans, vice presidents, chairs, and supervisors for effectively communicating our budget plans in May.  We will continue to be forthcoming and transparent, and I’ll share additional news with you as it becomes available. 

These are challenging times for all of us, and I am even more grateful for your contributions to our University.

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You may see some media reports about budget cuts at UT.  These cuts are largely confined to administrative units.  The Office of the President, for example, has reduced its budget by 8 percent.  Here is a message that I shared with faculty, staff, and students earlier today describing the budget reduction plan.

Dear Colleagues:

Faced with a forecast of declining operating budgets, UT has initiated a plan to make budget cuts of $14.6 million in annual recurring expenditures.

Before I share the details, I want to say that I know this has been a difficult year for the campus. Many people have made sacrifices, and it hasn’t been easy. The faculty, staff, and students have all contributed to these efforts. Much work remains, but I am proud of the way we have worked together to confront these challenges.

Given the financial realities UT faces during the next few years, these budget cuts are prudent and necessary. We have done our best to protect the academic enterprise—teaching, research, and the student experience.  More than 90 percent of the cuts come from administrative units.  These cuts in the administrative portfolios ranged from 1-8 percent. Only about one-half of 1 percent came from academic colleges and schools.

While we have worked to minimize the loss of jobs, when the budget reduction plan is fully implemented, about 200 positions in the administrative units could be affected. Included in the 200 are about 125 positions campus-wide that have already been eliminated in the past year. More positions in academic units will be affected in the future, when deans implement their own re-allocation plans.

We believe the majority of these changes will be implemented through retirements and attrition, but not all. I deeply regret that these budget cuts will cost some jobs. We will do everything we can to help the employees affected.

To achieve the budget cuts we are announcing today, administrative units have also reduced or eliminated expenditures such as travel, equipment, supplies, services, printing, and mail costs. 

The operating units have been permitted to phase in budget reductions between August 31, 2010 and August 31, 2011.  However, some units will choose to move forward immediately. 

Our situation is compounded by many factors, two of which are decreased investment returns from our endowments and the need to maintain competitive compensation levels for our employees.  As you know, all staff and most faculty did not receive raises in fiscal year 2009-10. We are re-allocating resources in the operating units to fund a 2% merit raise pool for faculty and staff. All employees are eligible, but I want to emphasize that the raise program is merit-based, so not all employees will receive raises. 

It is essential that we set aside funds to reward excellence in our faculty and staff. If we don’t do that, we won’t remain competitive and retain the best talent available. We remain committed to pursuing our goal of becoming the leading public university in the nation.

We continue to reduce expenditures and increase efficiencies throughout the campus.  Programs implemented since 2003 to centralize business transactions, conserve energy, and restructure information technology services, among others, now save more than $50 million annually.  Our administrative costs as a percentage of our total budget are among the lowest in higher education.  I want to thank our hard-working staff for making this possible.

In the long term, university leaders, elected state officials, alumni, students and their families, the business community, and our citizenry must develop a new funding model for public higher education. The current model of replacing decreased state support with budget cuts is not sustainable. We must find a way to fund and preserve the public research universities that nurture economic growth, address the challenges of society, and promote individual advancement.  The future of higher education is at stake.

What we accomplish here every day is important to our students and their families, and to the people of Texas.  It is crucial that we work together to manage these difficult times and move forward.  Thank you for your help and for all you do for the University.

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Budget Update

February 18, 2010

Earlier this week, I had the chance to speak to the Faculty Council, where I gave an update on our budget situation.  As I mentioned previously in Tower Talk, all state agencies have been asked to prepare a prioritized plan to reduce state general revenue expenditures by 5%.  For UT Austin, that means a reduction of $29 million in state funding.  Fortunately, last summer we reorganized our Information Technology Services division, resulting in improved services and a savings of more than $5 million.  I’ve also arranged for a transfer of $5 million from cash reserves in the trademark licensing and sponsorships account by Intercollegiate Athletics.  We will make up the difference with reductions in new hiring, deferring some capital expenditures, and significant budget cuts in the administrative portfolios.  To a much lesser extent, we are asking for reductions in the colleges and academic departments.

Combined with declines in income from the Available University Fund and other endowments, this reduction in state funding will have a considerable impact on our budget.

I’ll keep you posted on these developments.

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BlantonJack

As many of you know, UT recently lost a great friend and Distinguished Alumnus. Jack Blanton, a leader in the energy industry, philanthropy, and higher education, died in Houston on Dec. 28 at the age of 86. Jack served UT in countless ways. He supported programs as varied as the law school, the Wildflower Center, British Studies, athletics, nursing, and, of course, the Jack S. Blanton Museum of Art, named in his honor in 1997.

Jack’s campus involvement extended to scores of initiatives, including the Centennial   Commission, the Commission of 125, the Development Board, and his service as president of the Texas Exes. He received the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1977. Jack was appointed to the Board of Regents in 1985 and was elected chairman in 1987. At a time when educational budgets were severely challenged, he was instrumental in increasing state revenue, much of which supported higher education in Texas. The UT System awarded him its Santa Rita Award in 1994.

Jack earned a bachelor’s degree in history at the University in 1947 and a law degree in 1950. After graduation, he worked for the Scurlock Oil Company in Houston, which he would eventually lead. He also served as president of Eddy Refining Company.

I will miss this great friend and leader, whose name will forever be held dear on our campus.

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sequestration

From left: Bill Powers; Washington State President Elson Floyd; Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, Chair of the House Republican Conference; AAU president Hunter Rawlings; UCLA Chancellor Gene Block, Tulane President Scott Cowen; and APLU President Peter McPherson

 

Wednesday, in my role as chair of the Association of American Universities, I traveled to Washington to meet with congressional leaders including Democratic whip Steny Hoyer of Maryland and Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington, chair of the House Republican Conference. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss federal sequestration’s damaging effect on university research and possible solutions as Congress negotiates spending levels for 2014.

Much of our nation’s scientific and economic leadership was built on innovation and research on college campuses and relied on public support. Sequestration is already hurting that research and limiting students’ involvement in the types of innovation that can change the world. We, as a nation, must move forward and support research universities as tools of scientific and economic growth.

Last week, the AAU, Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities, and The Science Coalition, which collectively represent more than 300 higher education institutions, released a survey of U.S. colleges on the impact of sequestration, which took effect in March. They found that the mandatory cuts to federal discretionary spending, from which research budgets are funded, have led to a reduced number of new federal research grants; the delay of some research projects; and fewer admission, stipend, and research opportunities for students.

As AAU President Hunter Rawlings, who participated in the meeting, has said, “As we cut, and then cut some more, and as our competitors overseas increase their investments in research and education, we create an innovation deficit that threatens America’s global leadership. This foolish policy must end.”

Hunter and I were joined on Capitol Hill by officials from the Association of Public Land Grant Universities and presidents and chancellors from Ohio State, UCLA, the University of Maryland, the University of Illinois, and Tulane.

As always, I’m proud to represent The University of Texas at Austin in our nation’s capital and wherever I go.

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fenvescrop

Last week, Greg Fenves, dean of UT’s Cockrell School of Engineering, accepted my invitation to become UT’s next executive vice president and provost. His appointment is effective Oct. 1. Greg is exactly the right person for the job. He has led initiatives to improve research competitiveness, undergraduate retention and graduation rates, international and entrepreneurship programs, and fundraising for the Engineering Education and Research Center. He has the skills and experience to advance UT in many key areas.

I hired Greg to be dean of the Cockrell School in 2008, and he’s been a true leader. He came to the University from UC-Berkeley, where he served as chair of the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, assistant director at the Pacific Earthquake Engineering Research Center, and professor of engineering. He studied at Cornell University and UC-Berkeley. He is an expert in simulating and predicting the effects of earthquakes on human-made structures.

Greg has said his top priorities will include strengthening the connections of our undergraduate students to the knowledge-creating communities in departments and programs, increasing the number of highly ranked graduate programs at UT, recruiting and retaining world-class faculty, and building the Dell Medical School as the leader for 21st century medicine and health care delivery.

His selection resulted from a national search by a committee composed of deans, faculty members, and students and chaired by Professor Martha Hilley.

Greg will succeed current Executive Vice President and Provost Steve Leslie, who has served in that role since 2007 and has done an outstanding job. Steve has been instrumental in the creation of the Dell Medical School, greater strategic planning and budgeting of the academic programs, and developing innovative learning technologies. He will remain on our faculty as special assistant to the president working with community partners involved in the Dell Medical School.

An interim dean for the Cockrell School will be named soon.

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This summer, assistant professor Todd Humphreys, in the Department of Aerospace Engineering and Engineering Mechanics, and his research team, graduate students Jahshan Bhatti and Ken Pesyna, spent time aboard the White Rose of Drachs, successfully performing GPS spoofing attacks on the 213-foot superyacht while it traveled on the Mediterranean Sea.

 

As you may know, much of UT’s research funding comes from federal agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Federal funding supports our research endeavors, and it also creates life-changing learning opportunities for our undergraduates and graduate students.  Just last month a team of UT Austin students led by Engineering professor Todd Humphreys demonstrated the ease with which a state-of-the-art ship could be diverted off course using GPS “spoofing.” By taking control of a ship’s navigation without ever stepping on board under controlled experimental conditions, the team exposed vulnerabilities that could have significant implications on the security of transportation and commerce around the world.

I’m proud of the fact that the research expertise of our faculty has resulted in a 35-percent increase in our external research support, from all sources, during the past six years. Federally funded research also helps stretch our state’s dollars further, while helping to make education more affordable for Texas families.

This week the Association of American Universities (AAU) and more than 160 university chancellors and presidents are making a public appeal to President Obama and Congress to address major federal budget cuts to research and higher education.

These cuts are creating a gap, an “innovation deficit” between needed and actual funding of research and higher education. This deficit could slow or even halt promising research now. It would limit student opportunities well into the future—not just in the classroom or lab, but in the world after graduation.  Fewer research breakthroughs mean fewer patents, fewer start-ups, fewer products, and inevitably fewer jobs.

I recognize that there are many factors placing pressure on the federal budget. However, sequestration tends to inflict across-the-board cuts rather than strategic ones. Our long-term national welfare and security depends on innovation.

I hope you will agree that the answer to avoiding an innovation deficit must include sustained strategic federal investment in research and higher education. I will be working on this and many other challenges confronting higher education when I begin service as the chair of the AAU in October.

 

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