Budget Watch: 17 positions cut, incoming class size reduced

In light of Gov. David Paterson's recent cuts to the SUNY budget, Geneseo is preparing methods for dealing with continued financial difficulties, including cutting non-teaching positions and the number of incoming students next semester.

There are 17 positions at the college that will not exist next year - four positions in academic affairs, two in student and campus life and the rest in administration and finance. These eliminations are in response to Paterson's proposed $150 million cut to the SUNY budget. "Nobody essentially lost their jobs," said Kenneth Levison, vice president of administration and finance at Geneseo. "These positions became vacant and we're not filling them."

According to Brian Hartle, the Student Association director of academic affairs, there are concerns amongst some students that entire programs will be cut.

"If the Empowerment Act doesn't get passed and we don't have a more permanent way to deal with this, then cash is going to run out," Levison said. "We'll have to look at programs and see what we can't do anymore."

Because the college retains some hope that there will be some form of relief and has not decided on what would need to go yet, however, Levison said that there were not any specific cuts to programs on the table as of yet.

Reiterating a message that President Christopher Dahl has been repeating in College Senate meetings, Levison emphasized the importance of the ability to provide a quality education to Geneseo's mission.

"I would put our alumni up against any alumni from any other institution. We want to keep it that way," Levison said. "We want to be able to fulfill our destiny so that you [the students] can fulfill yours."

With this in mind, the college will reduce next year's incoming class by 75 students in order to "maintain a reasonable student-to-faculty ratio." This cut will result in $410,000 less in tuition revenue, although, according to Levison, "These are the trade-offs we have to make. Could we mitigate costs by taking in a lot more students? Yeah, but how are we going to teach them? We can't maintain quality like that."

"That helps maintain quality," Hartle said in response to the proposition. "It's a pretty good idea."

One way the college is looking to maintain and even improve quality is through the Six Big Ideas. "If they come to fruition, they're going to strengthen education for our students regardless of the financial situation," Levison said.

Levison and Dahl said that they are both still hopeful that the Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act will pass.

"If the act passes, we can cope with these cuts," Hartle said.

"Even if the Empowerment Act passes, it's still not going to be an immediate cure," Levison said. "It would probably take two to three years to get back to the 2006-2007 base that we always compare to. But we could manage that."

Levison stated that there are "a lot" of legislators who are opposed to the bill. "We need students, parents and faculty to lobby for this."

"If we're able to have a tuition increase, that's great because we get more money, but we can't price potential students out of Geneseo," Hartle said. "What's to say that tuition won't increase at the max level every year for 10 years?"

"If we get to set differentiated tuition on this campus we will take care of students who need financial aid," Levison said in response to concerns over affordability and accessibility.

Junior Nicholas Kassik, Student Association vice president, said that he had attended a lengthy meeting with Dahl and came out convinced that should the Empowerment Act pass, "Geneseo's going to come out of it pretty well."

"There are safeguards in the Act that take into consideration our financial aid concerns," acknowledged Hartle.

Kaasik said that Student Association is in the beginning planning stages of putting together a lobbying trip to Albany in support of the Empowerment Act.

"We want to advocate on two points. First, to stop budget cuts and the privatization of the SUNY system that results, and second to give Geneseo the ability to enact the autonomy entailed by the Higher Education Empowerment and Innovation Act," Kaasik said. "It is in the interest of everyone to have a quality public education system."

Senior Student Association President Haleema Murtaza added that there are also intentions to attend "SUNY-Palooza," a mass protest in Albany by students from all of the schools in the SUNY system.

"We've been trimming the fat for a long time," Hartle said. "But now we're using actual meat."