To make up for an almost $30 million state budget cut, FAU faculty suggests closing down campuses. But if that happens, they’ll be out of a job and some students might not graduate.
In March, the Florida Legislature voted to cut $24.7 million from FAU’s university-wide budget for the upcoming school year, as part of its overall $300 million cut to state education. Now, faculty can suggest where the cuts should start on FAU’s website under ‘Budget Conversation.’
Over 210 faculty members out of 1,275 made suggestions on this page and some said FAU should close down either the Jupiter, Treasure Coast, Dania Beach (Seatech), Fort Lauderdale, or the Davie campus. Although these are all suggestions and nothing is finalized, some students and faculty on these campuses are worried.
FAU President Mary Jane Saunders, however, mentioned that not all campus branches may survive the cuts after a Board of Trustees meeting on March 15, according to the Sun Sentinel.
“We have to examine the role of all seven of our campuses,” Saunders said.
Junior architecture major Maria Castro says downtown Fort Lauderdale is filled with professional architects and gives future FAU students a chance to link with them for possible internships. “I feel that it would not be fair for the downtown Fort Lauderdale campus to be closed because it’s only going to narrow students’ resources even more,” Castro said. “And that’s not what a school is supposed to do.”
She says if campuses are closed down, some students won’t be able to graduate on time since certain architecture classes won’t be offered there. “The Broward campus greatly affects our careers and our future plans of graduating on time,” Castro said.
Broward has already started cutting classes and some students feel like the campus will be shut down soon, according to senior communications major and Broward SG Chief of Staff Ashley Trevisano. She travels about 40 minutes to Boca for classes that used to be offered in Broward.
“As of right now, we feel like our campus is closed,” Trevisano said. “They used to offer all the classes in Broward and they started moving them to Boca.”
Assistant Professor Mustafa Berber teaches Environmental and Geomatics Engineering on the Treasure Coast campus in Port St. Lucie. He thinks shutting down campuses will be a risk.
“It will not be good, everything will be disrupted. We don’t know what the future holds,” Berber said.
Administration doesn’t know if these campuses are at risk either. “I don’t have a comment on that yet,” Vice President of Financial Affairs Dennis Crudele told the Sun Sentinel. “When we announce the plan, you’ll know.”
But this isn’t the first time FAU suggested closing campuses, and students and faculty seem worried. When the university’s state funding was first cut $30 million in 2008, there was talk about SeaTech closing down and moving to Harbor Branch in Port St. Lucie, according to the Sun Sentinel.
“As far as the faculty down at SeaTech they would have to be hauling up to Boca or the Harbor Branch campus,” said Program Assistant for Division of Engineering Student Services Trudy Jeffries, who works with engineering students and faculty in Boca. She thinks if SeaTech is shut down, faculty might have to move to Harbor Branch or Boca.
Right now, the department of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering at SeaTech has a large economic impact on FAU according to Director of Ocean and Mechanical Engineering, Manhar Dhanak. The Institute spends a yearly amount of $5 million on students, faculty, and research. Engineer graduates are paid $17,000 a year to do research. Senior undergraduates are paid by the hour, and faculty who work on ocean research in the summer are also paid.
To continue this research, Ocean Engineering students need to be close to the ocean. “I believe these suggestions are based on lack of knowledge,” Dhanak said. “Unfortunately, not many FAU faculty are in a position to know what purposes these campuses serve, what savings would result from the actions, what the cost of closure would be and what impacts the actions would have.”
According to Dhanak recreating a campus like Seatech would be very expensive. “Doing something like that requires access to the ocean and it would be very hard and costly to replicate that,” he said.
SeaTech is about 100 yards away from the ocean Boca is about 5 miles. Senior ocean engineer Andrew Harrington says he has everything he needs at SeaTech. “I think having everything down here is a needed environment to work on classes, write a report, you can go to the beach and kayak,” Harrington said. “Its nice to have a small place to go to.”
As of now, administration and some FAU faculty and students don’t know if any campuses will close. “There is no way for us to answer these questions because they’re based on hypotheticals,” Director of Media Relations Lisa Metcalf said. “Budget information will be available the week of April 16.”
How to fix it
Last month, $24.7 million was cut from FAU’s budget. Many were worried, including faculty, so the university provided an avenue to hear those concerns. On FAU’s website under ‘Budget Conversation,’ faculty was asked for suggestions on how to stop the damage. Only 210 out of 1,275 faculty members suggested any ideas, but the university shared just 30 to be seen on its website. Here are some of them:
1. Removing landlines, recommending cell phone stipends
This means removing faculty office phones and having them use their own cell phone. FAU will refund any work related use the faculty makes with their own phone, according to the stipend policy.
2. Have professors teach more classes.
Despite the suggestion, FAU recently decided to set a 24-student minimum for summer classes, meaning if a class didn’t have 24 students enrolled in it last summer, it’ll be eliminated this summer.
3. Let people rent out some campus space like the stadium.
Calvary Church hosted an Easter service in the stadium on April 6 and there is a Rock2Live concert scheduled for April 28 featuring One Republic. There was also the Battle of Florida all-star game held in January at the new football stadium.
4. Give students less financial aid money and limit registrar services to the Boca campus.
5. Have a four day work week for faculty
To see more of the suggestions, go to http://www.fau.edu/provost/budget_suggestions.php
The silent protest
“We want a future,” read the sign senior Carol Collier held in front of the administration building on April 4. Collier and nearly 30 others held a silent protest in front of the admin building, protesting the decision FAU made to set a a 24 student limit in summer classes or else they would be removed.
“We can make a statement to FAU that these services matter,” senior Gabi Aleksinko told the UP.
On April 12 at 2 p.m. students will once again protest in front of the administration office. For more information, visit http://www.facebook.com/FAUCourseCuts.