November 12, 2009
The Select Committee on Efficiencies and Innovations has met twice and subgroups of the committee are now beginning to examine in detail ideas that may help us adapt over the next two years to significant declines in state funding. The committee's final report, including any recommendations to be presented to the Board of Trustees, should be completed by the end of January.
Our task as a university is to make the difficult but necessary choices to ensure that we serve our state and its citizens as efficiently as possible while maintaining the quality of our programs of teaching, research and service.
Ten months ago the Governor announced that our FY 2009 budget would be reduced by 5 percent. We handled that cut at a central university level. In September, we were directed to reduce the current FY 2010 budget by 5 percent, and we have done that. Now the Board of Trustees has advised us to expect an additional 3 percent cut later this fall.
Looking further ahead, estimates are that state funding for FY 2011, which begins next July, could be 13 percent below our original FY 10 budget. State support for FY 2012 could be 23 percent below the FY 10 starting point. These reductions do not account for higher costs associated with inflation. Obviously, cuts of this magnitude will require significant modifications. We must take a close look at all of our academic and non academic programs.
Eighteen years ago, under similar circumstances, President Donald Zacharias established a Priorities and Planning effort to help MSU work through a period of reduced state funding while simultaneously focusing university resources where they would do the most good. Parts of his charge to that earlier committee remain relevant today.
Dr. Zacharias called for a list of priorities that would guide MSU "so that we may focus on ways to use our resources and personal energy to achieve the kind of success for this university that we all desire." The Priorities and Planning Committee was charged to develop recommendations "to facilitate strengthening of major academic areas and de-emphasizing or eliminating secondary areas" while also considering "the need for major support services and possible reallocation of funds or identification of new sources of funds to achieve these priorities."
The charge to the current Efficiencies and Innovations Committee is similar. I have asked the group to conduct a thorough review of all academic and non-academic programs; prioritize programs in terms of their benefits to the university and state and their relevance to our mission; and make recommendations on how we can best adapt our anticipated level of resources to our mission and priorities. I asked the committee to work with these guidelines in mind:
- Take a university-wide perspective. Avoid turf battles.
- Make purpose-based choices. Assign priorities through strategic choices, not across the-board reductions.
- Prioritize programs on their own merits and relevance to the university mission of teaching, research and service/outreach. Avoid quid pro quo or "turn about is fair play" approaches.
- Build on strengths. Recognize areas of established strength.
- When changes are considered that affect the quality or scope of programs, protect quality first. It is better to have one strong major than two mediocre ones.
- Consider human impact. Recognize the effect of decisions on all members of the Mississippi State University family.
I sincerely appreciate the spirit of cooperation and determination with which each member of this committee and so many others across our campus are approaching this major challenge, and I hope each member of the university community will be ready to share ideas and suggestions with committee members as they go about their work.
The 28 voting members of the committee include elected representatives of each academic college, the library, and the Meridian Campus, along with members of the Executive Council and other representatives of the faculty, staff and students. Faculty Senate President Hart Bailey serves as committee coordinator. Working with him in committee leadership roles are Dr. Peter Rabideau as co-chair for academic affairs and Mr. Mike McGrevey as co-chair for administration and support.
Internal job posting
One adjustment in our procedures that may help reduce costs and also lessen the potential impact of budget cuts on employees in the future is being implemented immediately.
We will now require that all non-faculty job vacancies be posted for internal applications only, for seven calendar days, so that qualified regular full-time and part-time employees may be considered first for any openings.
If a viable internal candidate is identified, the position may be filled after the seven-day posting period. If no internal candidate is hired, the position may—with presidential approval—be opened to external candidates.
The current procedure that requires presidential approval for initial posting of professional and executive positions remains in effect.
The search committee for MSU's Provost and Executive Vice President began its work during the summer with the intention of scheduling on-campus interviews this month. While several nominations and applications were received, the pool of very qualified individuals remained small, and the search committee agreed that an executive search agency would be needed to secure a viable pool of applicants, in keeping with the significance of the position.
We have now contracted with Academic Search, Inc. of Washington, D.C., to assist us in moving forward. Senior consultant John Hicks has met with the search committee once and will return to campus next week to meet with faculty, staff, students and others regarding opportunities and challenges the Provost and Executive Vice President will face.
The revised schedule calls for on-campus interviews with finalists to begin in late February and conclude by early March, with the search committee's recommendations to be submitted immediately afterward.
An interim provost will be appointed as of January 1 to serve until the position is filled.
I am pleased that Third District Congressman Gregg Harper has agreed to deliver the fall semester commencement address at 7 p.m. Friday, December 11. Fall commencement will consist of a single ceremony, rather than separate events on two days. About 1,250 students are candidates for undergraduate and graduate degrees.
Mark E. Keenum, President