University President Michael Hogan, responding to budget cuts, has begun to explore the implications of curtailing the operations or closing the William Benton Museum of Art and the state Museum of Natural History/Connecticut Archaeology Center.
Hogan said that while he is searching for ways to absorb budget reductions that will minimize effects on the University’s core mission, he is also initiating an examination of the implications of closing the Graduate School and re-distributing its administrative and support services to colleges and other units that more directly oversee graduate programs.
“We have some operations that are nice to have,” he said, “but may be in areas we need to curtail at a time when our top priority has to be protecting operations that are most central to our mission.”
UConn’s budget gap for the coming fiscal year is about $34 million, he noted, which presents “a severe financial challenge for us. To the extent possible, we will manage that challenge by seeking to protect the quality of our programs and student access to them.”
The Cost, Savings, and Revenue Enhancement Task Force (CORE) issued a preliminary report this month that recommended initiatives that could save $5 to $7 million by the end of Fiscal Year 2010.
More than 500 suggestions about cutting costs and enhancing revenues were made to the task force, which also conducted several town meetings to solicit opinions from faculty, staff, and students.
Among the suggestions received were ones that proposed studying the consequences of closing or reducing hours of facilities like museums, performance venues, recreational facilities, and libraries.
“I am not contemplating selling our collections, but we must ask the question as to whether we can continue to staff and operate the museums at the current level,” Hogan said.
“They are nice to have, but like every other program and activity, we have to ask if we can continue to support it at the current level.”
Hogan also said he is investigating closing the centralized Graduate School, which handles administrative aspects of graduate programs, provides professional and financial support to students, monitors graduate curriculum, and audits students to ensure they have met all graduation requirements. It also deals with academic misconduct and other issues of impropriety among graduate students.
“Much of the work of managing a graduate program is done in colleges, schools, and departments. Admissions decisions and most academic decisions are made in departments,” said Hogan.
“We must look at whether an additional school adds adequate value at a time when resources are very tight.”
Hogan plans to look at whether some of the Graduate School’s administrative and support functions (such as degree auditing, promoting diversity, and providing professional development funding and opportunities for students) might be consolidated with similar functions in other units to generate efficiencies, economies of scale, and enhance overall coordination across different parts of the University.
“These activities are important to building strong graduate programs,” Hogan noted. “We certainly need to continue them, but we should also ask if they can be done in ways that are more efficient and well-coordinated.”
Hogan has acknowledged the dire straits facing the state economy, and told the General Assembly’s Appropriations Committee on Feb. 13 that the governor’s proposed budget, if not adjusted, would make it nearly impossible for the University to continue its quest to become one of the nation’s top public universities.
He said it would also have serious implications for the future of the UConn Health Center.