The University of Missouri has seen its share of ups and downs over the past 12 months. Recently, it was dealt another blow, not as a protest or resignation, but in the form of budget cuts.
On April 27, Gov. Jay Nixon signed off on a $3.8 million cut to the MU System. While not as deep of a cut as the legislature originally wanted (the House originally proposed cutting $7.6 million from the system), it will still cause problems for the university. Interim Chancellor Hank Foley announced that MU will enact a university-wide hiring freeze, stop all merit-based pay raises and cut spending by 5 percent. This is all in an effort to close the budget gap of an estimated $32 million for the coming year caused by a decrease in enrollment.
While hiring freezes and no pay advancements are bad news, more troubling is how this budget issue could affect the many programs and offices on campus that depend on the university for funding.
MU has made several announcements since the spring break holiday concerning cost-saving moves. Vice Chancellor of Operations Gary Ward released a statement in an email to faculty and staff on April 8 that detailed cuts and downsizing measures throughout his department. They included eliminating 50 positions and downsizing student positions in 2017. Custodial staff will no longer be responsible for cleaning offices or removing the trash from offices, mail services will be reduced to once daily, overtime will be eliminated and the response time for maintenance work will increase due to a reduction in staff. Landscape services will also be downsizing, meaning services such as weekend trash collection during home football games will be eliminated and winter weather response time slowed.
Some changes being implemented will affect students directly. Ward outlines in his email that the DigiPrint services at the MU Student Center will be closed, meaning that all printing services will be restricted to Ellis Library.
“While this list is not comprehensive, it includes those that might be most noticeable aesthetically to faculty, students and visitors to campus; and those that realize the most cost savings for the department,” Ward said in the email.
It has also been announced that the status of four residence halls have or could be changed in the coming months. Laws and Lathrop halls will be closed in August 2016. These halls were scheduled for demolition in January 2017, as part of the Residential Life Master Plan, according to MU News Bureau spokesperson Christian Basi.
Basi went on to explain that if students were living in these two halls for the fall semester, it would cost MU $200,000 to move them for the scheduled January demolition date. Because enrollment is projected to be down significantly, these two halls will not be needed, so the demolition date has been pushed up.
Residence halls Respect and Excellence are not scheduled to close unless the number of students is lower than expected in the fall. All other halls will be filled to capacity first before letting students apply for Respect and Excellence, as it is more efficient to operate residence halls when they are full. If the halls are needed due to higher demand than expected, the Department of Residential Life will open one hall. If one or both halls are not needed, the maintenance status will be evaluated as both halls are almost 10 years old, which is when scheduled maintenance occurs.
The proposed cuts and downsizing are affecting MU on all levels. MU Extension is feeling the pressure as well.
Thomas Henderson, who temporarily held the position of interim vice provost and director of MU Extension, explained in February that this was the most uncertain time he has experienced at MU in the past 20 years.
“My concerns are with the legislature in Jefferson City, not necessarily with the University,” Henderson said.
The final budget for the 2017 fiscal year may still be undecided, but the university is preparing for a shortfall. Cost-saving measures have been announced in most departments across the campus.