Dear Campus Community,
In my presentation to the Board of Trustees in November, I outlined three strategies that UA Little Rock will take to reach a balanced and sustainable financial position. As we prepare for this month’s Board meeting, I’d like to give you an update of where we are in our actions.
The first strategy, as stated in my BOT remarks, is to “consolidate, reorganize, and downsize to reduce administrative costs overall.” We are working on that now with consideration of the college consolidation models that we have been reviewing for the last six weeks or so. The Provost’s January 16 message about college consolidation addresses this strategy. Student Affairs, Advancement, and Athletics are also reorganizing their divisions for cost savings and efficiency, and the IEC continues to consider additional possibilities in this area. The goal of this strategy is to reduce administrative costs as much as possible.
The second strategy is to begin the process of downsizing our physical plant by consolidating space needs and taking a few buildings offline to save maintenance and utility costs. Eventually, these buildings will be removed. That process is also underway as we consider closing the old Education Building and moving those units to available spaces in other buildings.
The third strategy is to “continue the academic planning process with a goal of consolidating or eliminating programs with low demand.” The Provost has outlined the first steps in this process in her January 7 email to the campus and these are underway with the gathering of feedback from internal and external stakeholders. It is important to reiterate that the academic planning process has broader, ongoing objectives that will guide decisions not necessarily related to budget reduction. However, as the mechanism for strategic resource allocation for Academic Affairs, it is a critical process for the task at hand.
The term “academic planning” is also used to describe one of two categories of retrenchment available to UA institutions per the Board of Trustees policy on retrenchment (405.5—The Retrenchment Policy). Retrenchment is a formal process that must be authorized by the Board of Trustees and which allows the termination of employment due to either “a bona fide financial exigency” or formal academic planning involving, among other things, major reallocations of resources for academic and support services. Given the level of budget adjustments we have to make and our projection of slowing, but continued enrollment decline for the next few years, it is becoming clear that we cannot achieve financial stability in the short run without retrenchment. For that reason, I have placed a notice of intent to initiate the process of formal academic planning on the January Board agenda in anticipation of seeking retrenchment authorization later this year.
I realize that this is not the most positive note on which to begin the spring semester, but I feel strongly that you should be aware of what we are doing and why. We will continue the planning process even while we must make difficult decisions for the immediate future. I do believe that we will emerge from retrenchment a stronger, more focused university. UA Little Rock plays a vital role in our community, both as a transformational opportunity for students and as a contributor to economic growth in Central Arkansas. We must do everything we can to ensure its sustainability into the future.