Saturday, April 12, 2008

Let Them Eat Real Estate

Anticipating the looming national calamity of George Bush's recession, Governor Mike Beebe implemented a conservative budgeting philosophy and this week cut the state's projected budget by $106.7 million for the fiscal year starting July 1. The largest hit will be taken by the Department of Human Services ($30 million), but the agency spokesperson said they have "the flexibility through the resource and reallocation process to redirect funds where they are the most needed.”

The University of Arkansas could face a reduction of approximately $4.7 million in state funding, but under Amendment 33 to the Arkansas Constitution, the University has far more flexibility in the allocation of funds than do most state agencies. John White can and has shifted funds at will among colleges and from teaching staff to administration. Yet, the UA is claiming that the reduction could eliminate the university's ability to provide any wage increases to faculty and staff in the coming year. That is certainly a choice they could make, just as they could decide to reduce the number of administrators making far greater salaries.

What must now be abundantly clear to everyone is that it would be unconscionable for the University to spend state funds or tuition money to buy real estate when other more pressing needs are unmet. To throw away $60 million to purchase the
Fayetteville High School campus, while insisting that the UA was already underfunded by $40 million annually and threatening to deny cost-of-living raises to faculty and staff, would be as foolish as it would be dishonest. That case cannot be made.

Steve Percival and Susan Heil are dead set on selling off the current centrally located campus to satisfy the Cowbirds, they had better find a new mark. Even John White is not irresponsible enough to gut the University's essential educational mission to pursue such a venture with no legitimate purpose. Is he?

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