UTSA’s College of Liberal and Fine Arts (COLFA) may experience tough times if an anticipated budget cut occurs.
The UT System has recently proposed a five percent budget cut for its 15 institutions. If approved, $175.3 million will be deleted from available funds. The universities in the system are divided into two separate groups; academic institutions and medical institutions. The academic portion will lose $78.1 million, and the medical $97 million.
The UT system employs over 84,000 people, as one of the biggest industries in the state. The budget cut will not only affect students and faculty, but a large percentage of those employeed by the state.
Although the cut has not been approved, the institutions affected have already begun budget adjustments.
UTSA is already reallocating funds that were originally planned for the Master Plan. If budget cuts continue, UTSA will have to halt construction projects slated for the next fiscal year.
“We should be able to proceed without any noticeable changes. In the long run, some of the benefits that we would like, we will not get,” Dr. James Schneider, history department chair, said.
Schneider made it clear that Texas, UTSA specifically, is experiencing minimal consequences as a result of the troubled economy.
“The state government would say that we’re not facing the kind of catastrophic cuts that California and some other places are facing, precisely because they have been more conservative in their spending,” Schneider said.
UTSA has been preparing for the budget cut.
Schneider said that the university is striving to keep the students uninvolved, but will be demanding more of the faculty.
Schneider also said that none of his budget for the next year will be affected. He has created the Spring 2011 schedule without any reduction in courses or staff. Several of the departments in COLFA will be left with little development.
“What is certain is that we will not be able to hire any new faculty for next year,” Dr. Steven Kellman, English professor, said.
“That will mean some combination of the following: larger classes, fewer course offerings, increased use of part-time instructors, heavier load by existing faculty for curriculum planning, dissertation supervision and other academic responsibilities,” Kellman said. “My department and a few others in COLFA are two or three new hires away from national prominence, and the freeze on new positions will delay UTSA’s elevation in accomplishment and prestige.”
The music department, however, may grow.
“Our department is getting this incredibly exciting degree proposal, and it’s currently being reviewed at the UT System,” Eugene Dowdy, associate professor of music and the conductor of the UTSA Orchestra, said.
“It’s a doctorate of music; it’s a pioneering initiative of combining music and science in vocal health especially.
“We’re proposing this degree, but we’re also being told at the same time no new music degrees are going to be approved right now.”
On the other side of campus, Dr. Robert Fuhrman, psychology department chair, has positive plans for his department as well.
“We have the same number of sections of classes. In fact we’re expanding them a little bit, at least a little bit based on some of the non-tenure types of instructors,” Fuhrman said.It seems that all of the plans are still in place; some of them will just be delayed until the economy improves. Fuhrman doesn’t expect the hold to delay UTSA’s progress for more than a year, but without knowing the future of the economy and the toll it will take on the UT system, it is impossible to say for sure.
“[Dean Gelo] is looking to not only not cut budgets but to expand. There is talk of having a dance program, and they are talking of hiring a few dance instructors. The other thing that everyone wants is a theatre department, which UTSA does not have,” Mark Brill, professor of musicology, said.
UTSA is striving for tier-one status, and many universities in that catagory have a theatre department.
However, the problem for UTSA is lack of space.
“Our department can’t thrive if we don’t have space to practice. As it is, we don’t have spaces to teach. I share an office with somebody right now, then I have to teach within a room with somebody else,” voice teacher and recruiting coordinator, April Hufty said. “We can’t grow as a department as it is right now. Our quality is getting better because we accept only the very top students. But we can’t grow and have bigger productions, and we can’t have a bigger program because we are out of space.”
The music department, which demands more space than all the other COLFA departments, will feel the cut the most. They could not go on without practice and performing areas.
“Dean Gelo has vowed to protect us as much as he can, to make sure we don’t have any budget cuts that affect the arts particularly,” Brill said.
There is a battle between all of the arts departments and the STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) departments. The arts need not just performance arenas; they need basic amenities like classrooms and office areas for the teachers also.
UTSA orchestra conductor, Eugene Dowdy said, “This music department was designed and built for 100 music majors. We have 300 music majors. We’re bursting at the seams. I saw one music teacher teaching a trumpet lesson on the stairwell because he didn’t have anywhere to teach.”
But the university still sides with the STEM in Dowdy’s opinion. “I think it’s a wise move from the global standpoint. I understand that those tier one aspirations in sciences and mathematics will put UTSA on the map. But every tier one institution that I know, every one, has leading arts programs,” Dowdy said. “People want the arts, they want culture, they want all this uplifting activity, but at the same time you see two new engineering buildings going up and they’ve even said every new degree program, every dollar coming in, is first going to the STEM.”
An important factor in this situation is trust. Some faculty trust that the University will provide for the arts. “Dr. Romo is an artist himself, a photographer, so he gets it,” Dowdy said.