Dear Faculty, Staff and Students:
When I wrote to you in January, I said that I did not have
simple answers to the difficult issues we face, both here at the University of
Washington and in public higher education more generally. Easy answers are still elusive, but we are
making progress on various pieces of unfinished and ongoing business that
continue to vex us. Rather than focusing
on the laundry list of issues today, I thought it might be helpful to just
highlight a few to show how I am approaching them, in close consultation with
the President and appropriate advisory groups.
Faculty Salary Policy. The lack of pay raises is one of the greatest disappointments of
the past three years, and we face yet another year of a state salary
freeze. This has been difficult for our
faculty and staff, particularly as other parts of the economy recover. The freeze just can’t continue, and both
President Young and I are committed to working with the Legislature to ensure
that we return to a more normal pattern of raises in the future.
Now is the time to start planning. The process of awarding staff
raises will continue as usual, but on the faculty side, our present salary
policy is just not working. This leads to a recurring sense of bad faith
permeating administrative-faculty relations.
So what are we doing? President Young and I have been working
with the Faculty Senate to put together a joint committee with two goals. The
first is to develop guidelines for distributing raises in the next biennium.
The second is to develop a more enduring policy that can guide us through at
least the next decade. We will draw both
from the principles underlying the policy articulated in 2000 in Executive
Order 64 and upon
best practices followed by our peers. The goal is to create a policy that
brings us together, rather than accentuating our differences.
and Process in Program Closures. During the next few months, you’ll no doubt hear about plans to
close programs. Many of our units are considering significant realignments and
cutbacks. While perhaps not as severe as we’d feared, budget cuts will continue
into a fourth year, and we have yet fully to adjust to the budget cuts of the
past. Virtually all our academic units have been using temporary funds to meet
programmatic needs, and that can’t go on indefinitely.
We face difficult choices as we adjust to a new today and
tomorrow. I cannot promise to maintain
our full complement of academic offerings and programs while maintaining high
quality standards; some programs just can’t run without substantial state
support, and that is just no longer there. What I can promise is that whatever
we do will be guided by a very good and clear process — the Reorganization,
Consolidation, or Elimination of Programs (RCEP) — that is based on several
important principles: protecting as much
as possible the curriculum and educational needs of our students, prioritizing
program quality, and retaining our commitment to tenure and to diversity in faculty,
staff and students.
As I begin the budgetary process in the coming weeks, I will be
guided by the principles established last year by Interim Provost Mary Lidstrom
in consultation with faculty, students and campus leadership, including the
Senate Committee on Planning and Budgeting, the Board of Deans and Chancellors,
and the Provost Advisory Council. Those principles still inspire and direct
us: quality, a focus on students and
faculty, affordability and leverage, and long-term strategy.
Together, we are working to survive huge budget cuts that have
more than halved our state subsidy. Still, we remain true to our mission as a
public university. While we do not enjoy
the bargain basement tuition we were once able to offer, an education at the
University of Washington remains a great value and investment. Despite steep tuition increases, when coupled
with our strong commitment to providing financial aid, the University remains
affordable. This year we had the most socioeconomically diverse student body
ever, with almost a full third (32%) of our undergraduates from lower income
backgrounds, as defined by Pell grant eligibility. We are not only an economic
engine for state business and industry, but an engine of opportunity for its
The tough times are not
over, and the issues are not easy. But I am confident that we can not only
weather the storm, but thrive. If we are strategic in re-shaping our future,
keep our focus on those things that most matter, remain committed to
transparent processes, and continue to build trust as a community, we can
emerge on the other side a stronger University.
Ana Mari Cauce
Provost and Executive Vice President