SIMEK: Good afternoon.
Welcome to this University of Tennessee webcast. My name is Jan Simek.
For those of you who don’t know me I’m the acting president of the University of Tennessee.
I wanted to talk to you this afternoon for a few moments about the upcoming budget planning that the University is going to undertake.
As most of you know last night Governor Phil Bredesen outlined his state budget proposal for the upcoming years, and in that budget he included aspects of the federal stimulus package. And of particular interest to us are those aspects that have to do with higher education.
In short the governor’s budget proposes a reestablishment of the 2008 budget levels for the University of Tennessee, and this is obviously a very good outcome for us in the years ahead.
Those 2008 budget levels will allow us to proceed with education, research and service at a level we have attained and hope to continue into the future.
However, that stimulus money is not permanent. It comes essentially as a two-year cushion to protect us over that time period from what still remains of budget cuts in the future.
We still face a base budget reduction at the end of those two years of about $66 million to the University of Tennessee system, distributed more or less as we had been planning for up until the most recent budget cycle.
We therefore have time -- time to reflect, to plan, and to make a transition to a much leaner and more effective budget process, but in the meantime we do have the advantage of having funding to allow us to continue our efforts for the next two years.
Let me make clear, as the governor said, that this budget, this stimulus funding allows us to at least delay any layoffs that we had planned in the near future.
This does not mean that we don’t need to make transitions to a smaller leaner administration and service organization here at the University of Tennessee. We do need to do that.
But what stimulus funds allow us to do is to delay those layoffs, plan them carefully, to use attrition, retirement, other means at our disposal to reduce our workforce in anticipation two years hence of a leaner budget structure.
This gives us time to plan and to do that rationally and humanely for the future.
For our students, the governor’s budget essentially guarantees the classes they will need over the next few years to complete their degrees, the sections that they need in order to complete courses in a timely fashion in order to graduate on time.
We will be able to hire and keep teachers at a level we believe is important for our students’ well-being and for their success.
This doesn’t mean we won’t review programs; that we won’t look at everything we do here at the University of Tennessee to try and find economies of scale and streamline to become more efficient.
But for today’s students they can be pretty much certain of a reasonable progress to degree that they came to the University of Tennessee expecting and anticipating.
Let me make the following observation in closing: UT as an institution, as a set of institutions, is better now than it has ever been.
We have better students, better faculty -- our programs are designed to prepare students for the future that they will engage with when they come out of the university.
Our dedicated faculty and staff have worked very hard to create that kind of educational and research environment that puts us in the forefront of American public institutions of higher learning.
We will continue to emphasize that aspect of the University.
We are very proud of who we are. We will use the next two years to thoughtfully plan, again in a humane way, to position ourselves for the future that I believe is very bright for the University of Tennessee.
If you have any questions about this, please visit UTALK at tennessee.edu.
That’s a place where you can get updated about the budget situation, make comments about your role in it, ideas that you may have for efficiencies and effectiveness are always happily received, and we do consider them in our planning.
Again, thank you very much. We look forward to working with the entire UT community in planning over the next couple of years for the bright future of this institution.