By James Tabafunda
Northwest Asian Weekly
Cutting costs at the University of Washington (UW) is an unwanted but necessary action to cover a $92 million budget reduction.
This is partly due to the cut in funding by the Washington state legislature. For Provost and Executive Vice President Phyllis M. Wise, it has been “a very thoughtful and thorough process.” However, one particular decision has been called into question by supporters of the UW Women’s Center.
The UW’s chief budget officer says she has read their e-mails of support, and states, “It’s not that the Women’s Center has withstood an unusual or unique cut. … I have to say every single unit across the university has had to deal with cuts.” In a phone interview on June 29, she said the university is “more than happy to go back and re-evaluate [the cuts to the Women’s Center].”
“I have formed a committee that will … do an assessment of what parts [of the Women’s Center] are absolutely essential for the learning environment for our students and the research environment for our students and our faculty,” she said. “And, in the evaluation of the Women’s Center, we will be looking at whether or not we should be asking them to look at alternative funding sources other than the state. So, that’s also across all units, not just the Women’s Center.”
Alternative funding includes sources such as gifts, grants, and contracts.
She says the university does not treat the Women’s Center differently than any of the other units, both administrative and academic. She hopes to receive the committee’s report by Nov. 1. “We will make a decision on what kind of cuts to assess, then,” she added.
At a Board of Regents meeting on the budget and proposed funding for fiscal year 2010, which was held on May 28, several supporters of the center spoke out against the 50 percent cut to the current 30 percent budget the center receives from the university. They said the 50 percent cut was disproportionate to the 15 percent cut in the budget of other programs.
“The permanent cut to our academic unit varied from 9 percent to about 12 or 14 percent. … They had an overall cut of between 5.2 percent and roughly 11 percent,” said Wise. “For all of our administrative units, and my own office is considered an administrative unit, we made cuts of between 8 percent and 16 percent.”
Wise admitted, “The Provost’s Office — myself — took a 16 percent cut.”
Over the last few months, she has been clear with university officials about the cuts that had to be made. She said, “I asked all of the unit directors … to do that kind of differential cutting. So, that means that any unit that got a 16 percent cut could cut things from zero to 100 percent.”
“We had meetings with 40 different units. So, I met with every single vice provost, vice president, chancellor, and dean,” said Wise.
She expects reports about their budget cuts by July 1, ones that answer the questions, “What did you cut more? And, what did you cut less?”
“It’s been painful. None of us have liked doing this. Many of us have spent hundreds of hours trying to decide how to go about taking the cuts affecting the core mission of the university in the least possible way,” she said. “We want to think as strategically as we possibly can for the long-term good of the university so that we, if anything, come out stronger.”
The mission of the UW Women’s Center is “a vital place where women and men partner to build a culture of gender equity campus-wide, locally, and globally.”
In the June 13–June 19 issue of the Northwest Asian Weekly, Dr. Sutapa Basu, the center’s executive director, says she knew budget cuts were going to affect the center, but she was “shocked at the disproportionate cut of the Women’s Center budget,” when “the demand for our service has gone up exponentially.”
Comparing the university’s in-state rival, she said Washington State University’s Women’s Center — one-third of UW’s size — receives three times more funding in its budget.
Basu is still optimistic. “We are [currently] negotiating the budget cut. I know the provost’s office is willing to work with us. I’m sure they will support us in continuing to provide crucial services to women who need our services,” she said. ♦
James Tabafunda can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.