Daily Egyptian

Budget committee meets, encourages student input

By Tyler Davis, @TDavis_DE

Students and faculty can provide their budget suggestions on a new SIU webpage. 

The chancellor’s website added a tab Monday that invites all university personnel to submit questions and ideas regarding SIU’s budget. Budget talks have been a focal point following Gov. Bruce Rauner’s proposed budget, which would cut nearly 32 percent from the state’s higher education spending.

University spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith said the university launched the website because the Executive Planning and Budget Committee wants to give a voice to every SIU community member. The committee, which includes two students, members of the Faculty Senate and chancellor and provost appointees, advises the chancellor on budgetary issues.

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The committee met with President Randy Dunn, who assumed chancellor duties after former chancellor Paul Sarvela died in November, on Monday.

The advisory committee consists of constituents of various groups on campus, including the Civil Service Council, student government and the Administrative Professional Staff Council.

The meeting was preliminary and Goldsmith said no cuts were made.

“We talked about making sure that we’re getting the campus community engaged in the conversation,” she said. “We also talked about an open forum, maybe a town hall meeting, that we might do in April. 

The meeting with Dunn comes after last week’s administrative request of 25 non-academic units, including the Paul Simon Public Policy Institute, the Center for Dewey Studies and WSIU, to present hypothetical plans for a 50 percent cut in state appropriations.

Goldsmith said the committee will send out similar memos for academic programs not related to the university’s core mission. She would not release any names of those departments.

“We didn’t actually talk about the units’ [hypothetical cuts] or go through any actual information as a group,” she said. “The group’s going to look at things then come back with some questions for the units.”

Goldsmith said she does not foresee the state budget passing before May. The university cannot complete its budget until then so it will be able to meet a few more times.

“We can start a new fiscal year under old budget numbers and get a university budget passed after that,” she wrote in an email. “For instance, the board did not adopt the FY15 current year budget until mid-September. The new budget should be adopted at least by the end of the first quarter of the year, which would be September.”

Cameron Shulak, president of Undergraduate Student Government, said he and Graduate Student Government President Matt Ryg represent students’ interest on the committee.

“I want to make sure the rest of the committee and decision makers understand that we prioritize things that are essential for students getting an education, the same quality education they should be getting at SIU,” he said.

Shulak, a senior from Louisville, Ky., studying aviation management, said he meets with different student groups daily to help him devise a way to accurately represent the student.

He praised the committee for prioritizing the students’ experience when discussing possible budget cuts.

“Student support and academic programs, those kind of things are critical to the university and shouldn’t be going anywhere,” he said. “Luckily, a lot of things that are critical to students and that deeply impact students are not going to be at huge risk here.”

He said students should not feel worried about the potential cuts but should use the university website to share their concerns.

Shulak said the next meeting is planned for late April but he foresees an earlier meeting being scheduled. 

He also said the April 16 SIU Board of Trustees meeting will have a lot of student interest because the board will discuss potential tuition increases.

“[The administration] acknowledged a tuition increase would have to be pretty significant for any sort of real revenue to be generated,” he said. “I don’t think that’s a road they really want to go down.”

Tyler Davis can be reached at [email protected].

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