Provost Phillips sweeps up dept account balances to pay for Knight Campus AC

Meanwhile, on the hot and gritty south side of campus:

From: CAS Dean <[email protected]>
Subject: [Casfac] Budget News
Date: May 19, 2021 at 3:41:28 PM PDT
To: [email protected]” <[email protected]>, “[email protected]” <[email protected]>

Dear faculty and staff, As many of you know, the pandemic created a substantial loss in tuition revenue this year, in large part due to a 20% decline in the size of our non-resident freshman class.  This represents roughly a $30 million loss in tuition revenue.  And this small cohort will continue to impact budgets for another 3-4 years.  Unlike many higher education institutions, our academic operations have avoided layoffs, pay cuts, benefit reductions, and cuts of departments and programs.  However, while we have implemented hiring freezes and expenditure controls to weather this financial crisis, these measures were far from enough to mitigate the losses. 

As a result, the Provost’s Office will be pulling back any current carry-forward balances from general fund accounts across all colleges, schools, departments, and programs.  These adjustments are being made immediately in CAS.  And let me emphasize that these are adjustments to carry-forward balances, not to our recurring budget.  Faculty-controlled funds, ICC funds, and Foundation accounts will not be touched. 

We are keenly aware that some departments and programs had planned expenditures from their carry-forward balances that will now have to be foregone, and this will be disruptive for many of you and your departments.  We also recognize that some departments have larger balances than others, and so there will be unavoidable inequities in impacts across department and programs. 

Our Dean’s Office will be working with department managers and heads to assess each unit’s situation and find alternative available funds where possible.  We know that this won’t be possible for every unit, and there will still be plans that departments and programs will have to forego.  We will put in place a process for departments to propose exceptions for unique and extraordinary situations, which we will consider in consultation with the Provost’s Office.  But we obviously cannot approve very many of these and still meet our financial obligations. 

Despite this short-run budget news, I am very appreciative that the provost is taking this moment to reset budgets across all his units and create principles for budgeting going forward that will be beneficial to the college and the university.  With the reset in college and school budgets, CAS’s annual deficit between funding and expenditures will be eliminated.  Our understanding is that schools and colleges will get clear budgets to which we can manage independently, but with accountability, going forward. The provost also understands that we have very low staffing in CAS and is working with us to address this once we are out of the hiring freeze.  Our budget for next year reflects his commitment to begin to address staffing needs.  We have advocated a long time for such change and believe this will set the college on a much better financial foundation. 

I end by acknowledging that this will create a lot of additional work for our department heads, managers, and Dean’s Office staff at the end of a very difficult year.  I am deeply appreciative of their engagement and leadership on behalf of the whole college. 


Bruce Blonigen

Tykeson Dean College of Arts and Sciences

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20 Responses to Provost Phillips sweeps up dept account balances to pay for Knight Campus AC

  1. thedude says:

    University politics is back.

    Pandemic must finally be over.

  2. CSN says:

    So no one is ever going to manage a department with a positive forward balance again, I take it.

    • anon and on and on says:

      We’d even encumbered funds and they still swept them. So now we’ve got to figure out how to tell graduate students that the summer grants they’d already been awarded just evaporated, thanks to the absolute monarchs of Provostia. It’s cartoonishly cruel.

      Apparently they’ve forgotten yet again that institutional morale is a thing. Just because you can’t put a dollar value on something doesn’t mean that destroying it with distrust won’t cost us all dearly a little ways down the line. But they didn’t learn it the last umpteen times, so I don’t expect they will now.

      • sjd says:

        Question, I know fairness has little to do with law but to my uneducated head:

        If you wrote a contract (which an Award is) with the student, isn’t the U on the hook to honor that? And so someone has to find the dollars to pay the contract (or have a legal way to break it). The student made decisions based on award packages, which may be different had the good faith contract not been binding. As your department had the discretion at the time to make that legal contract with the student, and in good faith, and probably does not have “Provost Dickhead can change this at a whim” clause, shouldn’t the contract still be binding? Also, I am no Oregon contract law expert, but I read here on UOM about admin arguing that a contract does not need some official document that is signed, heck, it seem that most of the coaches offers, buyouts, and contracts are executed on the back of a dirty napkin (in someone else’s hand writing) from the Athletic Supporter Lounge (ASL BTW did the ASL get moved to the top of the Phildo too :)

        • anon and on and on says:

          I think the various deans are doing damage control now, figuring out what they *have* to cover, but we were told to ‘find that money from other sources’ which they graciously offer to ‘help’ us find in our own books. Of course, in our case it’s coming out of our meager endowed funds, which means they’re making us eat our seed corn so they can pad their … whatever they’re padding. We planned ahead last summer but for nought.

          Basically, they’re just doing it (no pun intended) and then figuring out what they have to walk back. That’s devastating to morale too.

          • sjd says:

            Perhaps it is time to sue the administration, OR go to the Oregon Legislature and say this cannot happen… Salem should be well aware that this is not correct. Even the legislature cannot pull encumbered funds without declaring fiscal exigency (or something). They know because they often try this crap: EG Some new legislator, saying that if they just sweep all the Oregon Universities account balances there would be a budget surplus, totally ignoring that the tuition is sitting in the bank to pay the instructors, or non-fungible funds have been handed over from the foundation to build a building, or grants, awards, and scholarships awaiting distribution).

            This really seems to be total BS.

  3. Anas clypeata says:

    If you didn’t learn decades ago to spend or at least encumber every penny of your budget well before the end of the year, you may not be that good at learning. There is no reward for fiscal prudence and no penalty for fiscal irresponsibility at the UO.

  4. Anas clypeata says:

    Does the UO really have time-of-use electric rates from EWEB, or some other way of paying less for electricity at night, as implied by the document above? Last time I talked to someone who knew (ten years ago or so), the UO was paying fixed rates per kilowatt-hour regardless of the time of day, day of week, or season.

  5. Compulsory Pessimist says:

    But Jamie Moffitt just told the Board yesterday that enrollment was only down 5.4%, not 20%!

    She also said the E&G fund was projected to have only a $1.5 million deficit. I wonder if that number is before or after the CAS sweep?


    • charlie says:

      What can be expected from an institution that pilfers money from a bond deficit fund?

      Some of you are are now realizing what many of us learned when the S&L collapse was occurring,. Never tell the hired hands the truth…

    • thedude says:

      The freshmen enrollment is down 20 percent this year. Wanna bet it’ll be up 20 percent next year though (or more)? They don’t want to wait for good news though when they won’t have excuses to sweep money from us before we can spend it on research.

      • charlie says:

        How they gonna do that? Great financial aid package their first year, with scholies and grants? Then it’s gone sophomore year, when it’s all replaced by loans? Maybe a few tuition discounts? Same scams unis have always run. What makes you think every other institution ain’t playing the same game? Especially true of private unis, they tuition discount to where it makes more economic sense to attend their school than pay out of state tuition.

        But, difference is the economy hadn’t been shut down for over a year. A lot of the flagship’s market segment has been severely impacted, to the point they cannot take on debt to the same extent as before. Some of us seem to think when it comes to unis, they’re exempt from reality. Wanna bet they’re not??

        • thedude says:

          Its not hard. It wasn’t 20 percent lower because kids disappeared. They took a gap year, and they want to go to college. Many universities are reporting record large classes coming in next year. Ours will too.

          • uomatters says:

            It’s a well known fact (in JH) that students only enroll at UO because of the winning Duck athletic program. Therefore, since the season was cancelled last year there will be no undergrads this fall.

  6. thedude says:

    Rainy day funds always make ir rain for someone else here. Mostly the law school.

  7. Environmental necessity says:

    Here’s the shorter version: The failures amd deceptions of incompetent financial managers will be subsidized by stealing from competent and transparent and frugal financial managers.

    Absolutely no recognition that COVID prevented many efforts to spend carry forwards.

    We all live in Shelton and Moffit’s hall of mirrors and bullsh*t. There will be partying in the streets when those two leave. Can we cap their salaries so some other institution poaches those two paragons of “excellence”?

  8. Environmental necessity says:

    These shenanigans became inevitable when the geniuses concluded that a once in a century pandemic and the worst economic contraction since the 30s were just ho hum normal events that precluded a one-time draw on the endowment. Much smarter than the dunces at Duke.

    What is happening with the 40M from the feds and the flush state budget?

  9. Inquiring Minds says:

    Wait. Hiring freeze creates unspendable balances from vacant positions. Balances are Swept. Not sure if this is brilliant or devious. Or both.

  10. smh says:

    but, really, what are they doing with the funding from the CARES act?

  11. moss defender says:

    Does anyone know the current estimates of costs accumulated deferred maintenance at UO and in the athletic dept ? Were fire sprinklers ever added to the old dorms that dsont have any ? Also how many sports fields (made of foul smelling plastic) are now under construction along our riverfront ? Frohnmayer sure left us a turkey of a project with the RRP and now his smart son is gonna make a riverfront car dealership in the steamplant….all the while a huge toxic waste dump is right next to the building he wants to use and nobody plans to clean it up…BRILLIANT