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Program cuts will come later
Rumors of the demise of particular Stanford schools and programs were premature.
However, schools themselves almost certainly will make major program cuts in the months ahead, Provost James N. Rosse said in a discussion of budget reductions.
The Cabinet Committee on Budget and Strategic Planning carefully examined "big-ticket items" -- such as eliminating a school or campuswide program.
In the end, though, the group of faculty members and administrators who were developing budget-cutting targets simply couldn't do it, said Prof. Charles Kruger, the committee's deputy chair. Everything they thought of would cause "severe damage" to the university or undergraduate education, he said.
Despite talk about eliminating weak programs, years of emphasis on excellence have made it difficult to find weak programs, Kruger said. And the potential savings from dramatic actions proved to be less significant than anticipated, other officials said.
After months of study, operating budget reduction targets for six of Stanford's seven schools fall in a narrow range, from 7.1 percent to 8.8 percent. (The Medical School is engaged in a separate budget-cutting program.)
Rosse said, however, that the university had not slipped into the across-the-board method of budget cutting rejected last spring.
The similar figures reflect the fact that all of Stanford's schools are very strong and "each contains steeples of excellence," Rosse said.
And even though the percentages that resulted are similar, the last few months' consultation "has served as an excellent base for further planning, something that an across- the-board process would not have accomplished," Rosse said.
What to cut?
Early on, a few observers, looking for dramatic answers to the university's budget problems, suggested closing down the School of Education. The idea, officials said, was analyzed and discussed thoroughly.
However, Education has been No. 1 in its field nationally longer than any other Stanford school. And serious cuts in the School of Education "would be a mistake" given its ranking, the national crisis in primary and secondary education and "our commitment to public service," Rosse said.
Similarly, some suggested lopping off the overseas studies program or the public service center or the Washington, D.C, campus.
Those programs, Kruger responded, make Stanford a special place.
"There's a lot more to undergraduate education than taking courses in calculus or the short story," he said. "Sure, you could run a university that just offered classes, but it wouldn't be Stanford -- it wouldn't be a first-rate university."
Rosse said that some might consider overseas studies a program that enhances the university's "quality of life" but is not part of its academic core.
However, he believes the program "is such an essential part of what Stanford is to undergraduate students and to attracting these people, that we'd literally be chopping our hand off to keep from eating so much."
Nonetheless, major program cuts are inevitable in some areas, and Rosse said he expected to see the 20 schools, academic support units and vice presidential areas cut, reduce or merge some departments and programs.
Those 20 entities have until mid-January to develop plans on how to implement their budget-cutting guidelines.
Kruger suggested that the university may end up with "a different departmental arrangement that will involve some consolidations." But "it won't be massive change," he predicted.
Whatever the result, Rosse said that he did "not anticipate an enormous number of staff layoffs."
In fact, Stanford experiences about 15 to 17 percent turnover annually, so "permitting a year and a half's attrition to take place does not yield a whole lot of layoffs," Rosse said.
More than 400 positions were eliminated during repositioning, and after taking into account early retirements and staff members who found other jobs in the university, a total of 144 were actually forced to go, he said.
"We're going to press hard" to give hiring preference to those whose jobs are disappearing, Rosse said.
He said that it is not widely known that over a "reasonably comparable period" the university actually had more layoffs than it did during repositioning, the result of the natural ebb and flow of research and construction projects.
Rosse also said layoffs of tenured faculty were "not planned."
"There's no intention, I want to say emphatically, for us to violate tenure.
"Whatever actions we take will be program based and will be keyed around how best to put together the strongest institution," he said.
"We will be very, very, very careful and cautious about protecting our investment in faculty, both at the junior level, where we could wipe out 10 years [of building] in one fell swoop, and the senior level."
If academic programs are cut, it will be done over a period of time so that students are still able to complete their degrees.
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