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11/19/91

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Humanities and Sciences budget process

When drama students and others staged demonstrations on White Plaza to vehemently protest possible cuts in the performing arts, what was the reaction of those who must make such tough decisions?

"I've told them many times that they've been splendid participants in this process," said Carolyn Lougee, senior associate dean of the School of Humanities and Sciences. They have done "a very splendid job of educating" decision-makers about the arts' importance, she said.

Thus goes the highly participatory process that makes up budget cutting in Humanities and Sciences. Faculty and deans in the school are meeting on nearly a daily basis to develop a plan of how to cut $5 million from their budget as part of the university's $43- million budget-balancing.

Options under consideration, including large cuts in the arts, were publicized in an Oct. 28 memorandum from Lougee and Humanities and Sciences Dean Ewart Thomas to their faculty.

Lougee, who is heading up the school's budget-cutting effort, said the participatory process will assure that "we have all the available expertise and wisdom that the community can give us," but in the end, "the buck stops in the dean's office."

"After we have as much input as we can gather from as many people as possible, we will put our heads together and make the decisions," she said.

Lougee said that some observers worry that "if we're as open as we are and we listen as much as we listen, we'll lose our focus and lose our determination to proceed in a selective way."

In a recent interview, Lougee said that she does not expect the school to preview more decisions before the Jan. 17 deadline for submission of its detailed budget plan.

The school will not resort to across-the-board cuts to avoid difficult decisions, she said.

"Everybody is going to contribute something, it's just that we're not going to cut evenly," she said. "Even cuts might be the politically more acceptable approach, but that's not the wisest way to proceed in terms of academic management."

Many observers are closely watching the Humanities and Sciences process because the school - Stanford's largest and most complex - encompasses the bulk of the university's undergraduate education.

Humanities cut the most

The humanities component of Humanities and Sciences may well end up taking the largest dollar cut, Lougee said, because humanities, with about 215 faculty members, accounts for 42 percent of the school's operating budget. Social sciences and natural sciences, with 130 to 140 faculty apiece, each compose 29 percent.

In their Oct. 28 memo, Thomas and Lougee listed programs being particularly examined for substantial reduction or closure.

In the humanities, the list included the drama, humanities special programs, modern thought and literature, photography, design, black performing arts and music performance. Foreign language departments, it indicated, might be reconfigured.

In the social sciences, programs on the list included urban studies and innovative academic courses. In natural sciences, it included the macromolecule laboratory in biological sciences, as well as various undergraduate teaching labs and courses in experimental sciences.

"We wanted to be sure that every one of the programs that we were thinking of substantially reducing or eliminating would have an opportunity to make its case," Lougee said.

Planning committees and the deans are still assessing the drama department's present situation, as well as the potential for continuing support and strength.

"I just don't know how it's going to come out," Lougee said.

However, the university's commitment to the arts - and her own - is strong, she said.

"We will not be a university without strong arts programs. But every sector of the the teaching and research programs here - every sector - is being looked at very carefully as we set priorities on the basis of prospects for either development of excellence or maintaining of excellence in the foreseeable future."

Hard choices must be made about investing resources for maximum impact, and "in the arts, as in every other sector, I think we're going to be doing fewer things so that we can maintain and develop those fields where we think we have the best chance of being truly splendid."

How the process works

A two-pronged process to develop budget reduction alternatives is under way, Lougee said.

Three separate faculty planning groups appointed by the school are studying how the three clusters - humanities, social sciences and natural sciences - can contribute to Humanities and Sciences' 7.4 percent operating budget reduction target.

Initially, each is developing a cutting scenario that corresponds to its percentage of the school's budget, giving humanities an approximately $2 million target and the other two clusters about $1.5 million each.

In addition, the faculty planning groups were told to develop plans for slightly larger and smaller cuts.

The faculty groups are studying programs and potential department closures, as well as types of expenses within clusters that might not be as obvious when the area is examined on a department by department basis, such as the use of lecturers for instruction in Cultures, Ideas and Values; freshman English; foreign languages; and other courses.

The second part of the process involves discussions between the associate deans and each department.

In early December, recommendations from the three cluster groups will be finalized and submitted to an overall school planning group, which includes faculty representatives from each of the cluster groups.

Based on these recommendations, and information compiled by deans about departments, the school group will construct a single set of recommendations during the first two weeks of December.

From mid-December to mid-January, Thomas and his five associate deans will review the recommendations and prepare a final document for submission to the Cabinet Committee on Budget and Strategic Planning.

"We'll look at the concrete items and balance them off so we're taking the least damaging items," Lougee said.

Advising Lougee and the school planning group is a cabinet committee liaison team headed by Provost James N. Rosse and co-chaired by Ted Mitchell, deputy to Rosse and President Donald Kennedy.

The liaison team is a sounding board, providing a perspective from outside the school "to point out to us what we might have overlooked and ways of addressing some of the problems that inevitably will come up in the decision-making and possibly in the reception phase."

Lougee said the school will benefit from having the liaison team understand - and transmit to the cabinet committee - how and why Humanities and Sciences made its decisions.

Some decisions actually need to be made fairly soon, she said, because programs that are going to close must be told by January not to admit new students for next year.

Making judgments

Statistics on student enrollments and various quantifiable measures of excellence will influence the outcome, Lougee said, but in the end decisions about how to make the cuts will involve "a broad view of the institution and how its parts fit together."

"In most cases, that kind of judgment can't be pinned down in any set of numbers, but that's why you bring into this process the very strongest faculty members you can. It's their judgment that is really leading the decision."

Lougee defined three elements she thinks about in trying to resolve what programs are essential to Humanities and Sciences:

  • Foundational disciplines: Fields of knowledge that are indispensable to institutions of higher learning. "There are just certain disciplines without which a university could not function or be complete," Lougee said.
  • Distinctive programs: Some fields have blossomed at Stanford and contributed significantly to the university's distinctiveness. They are "just so appropriate or so woven into Stanford's character that for us they are central, while they might not be for another institution with which we might compare ourselves."
  • Interdependencies: Some programs, perhaps not foundational or distinctive, could not disappear without leaving other programs impoverished, Lougee said. These programs promote interconnections and synergies by fostering the "intellectual initiatives that grow up at the intersections of disciplines."

Lougee declined to divulge how she categorizes various programs because the prioritizing process still is under way.

But once the structure of priorities is defined, it is "going to guide us in the long term in making decisions."

Lougee rejected the idea that newer programs - which are often interdisciplinary - are prime candidates for elimination. Recently developed programs that have high promise and high student and faculty interest are likely to continue, while those that "didn't quite pan out" will have to come to an end, she said.

Although interdisciplinary programs "are not as inexpensive as we are sometimes led to believe," they are "one of the things we do really well here."

Interdisciplinary programs attract students, they give faculty members a high degree of job satisfaction and they generate new intellectual perspectives, she said.

"Our ability to support interdisciplinary ventures and even to generate new ones needs to be safeguarded in this process," Lougee said.

Lougee speculated that as all universities face budget problems in the 1990s, similarities will diminish. Institutions that have been striving to fit the model of the "comprehensive university" will pare back in different ways, making the choices for students sharper.

Stanford's faculty already is very lean, she said. Therefore, maintaining the size and quality of key faculty units is one of her highest priorities.

"We cannot accept a situation where we could not continue to make strong faculty appointments."

Lougee said the Humanities and Sciences deans are considering modifying the teaching load, which was lowered from five to four courses a year for most humanities departments several years ago.

One option would be increasing it to four-and-one-half classes. The additional half would be made up through team teaching or alternating four courses one year and five the next, Lougee said.

A teacher's philosophical view

As "a historian who longs to think about history a bit," Lougee offered some perspective.

During expansion, "everything gets better and better, and luxuries very quickly come to seem like entitlements. Asking ourselves to go back to what the situation was just a few years ago can easily, then, appear like a violation of the terms of employment."

Lougee recalled the good counsel of 18th-century philosopher Rousseau: Freedom and self-sufficiency presuppose a careful distinguishing between necessities and the optional.

"It is precisely that distinction we must now make very carefully and clearly in order to establish a new equilibrium of necessities and resources at Stanford," Lougee said.

Strong faculty role helps

Lougee acknowledged that anxiety and tension in the community is high.

"In programs that find their existence called into question, there's obviously low morale, and it's something we're very sorry about," she said.

However, Stanford's strong faculty culture is paying off during the painful process in which the campus is now engaged, Lougee said.

"We have a strong tradition of running the place, through the Faculty Senate, through our departments and through the deans' offices, which recruit their administrators from the faculty and then send them back," she said.

While faculty members often complain about "the administration," the split is less serious at Stanford than in other institutions because of this cycling of faculty into administrative roles as high as president and provost, she said.

Faculty discussions, especially in the humanities, have been "admirably candid and supportive," Lougee said, and the openness and civility of a recent town meeting with the faculty Humanities Caucus was "encouraging."

Lougee said that one of her biggest worries when the current budget-cutting process started months ago was whether "we could come out of this with our mutually reinforcing faculty intact. That is the most important asset we have here."

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