Among the cuts is a five-million-dollar whack out of the Board of Regents' pie. The cuts include these items (from a news release we BoR employees received from Regents exec Tad Perry right after the governor's speech yesterday):
- Redefine the mission of [i.e., shut down] the South Dakota School for the Deaf to an outreach education and support role, closing the instructional site in Sioux Falls. General fund budget savings of $2 million.
- Reduce state fund general support for the Cooperative Extension Service. General fund budget savings of $1 million.
- Eliminate the state match for maintenance and repair funds used to maintain Board of Regents’ buildings. General fund budget savings of $1,632,999.
- Cut institutional programs or activities across the regents’ system. General fund budget savings of $500,000.
One thing does stand out about the messages I've received this week from the Regents and our president at DSU, Doug Knowlton: Nowhere do their messages signal that we are going to stand and fight these cuts.
Now you know me: I'm always keen to identify situations where the powers that be aren't standing up for what is right. Even in the current budget situation, supporters of education, the arts, the State Fair, and other targeted programs have every right to make the case that the cuts to their favored programs will do more harm than good. The Regents have an obligation to speak up for their employees.
But I'm not so sure that Tad Perry's talk of standing "as a partner with Gov. Rounds and the Legislature" is an abdication of advocacy for the folks who work for them. Maybe the Regents' apparent acquiescence to the cuts as announced is a signal that they've already done their advocacy and have already won. Look again at those cuts. Out of $5 million, only $500K is coming from core university functions. We could cover that by consolidating three university presidentships into one. We're not talking about losing profs or cutting major programs. We're not even mentioning closing a campus.
I'm not prepared to go as far as Mr. Powers and declare that the Regents are getting off scot free. No raises next year isn't exactly painless, but that's still a big step away from no jobs... which is exactly the barrel over which the Regents and the governor know they have every recession-spooked worker.
For now, I'm reading the Regents' acquiescence this way: Tad Perry is going to keep his head down and talk team because he knows it could have been much worse. I'd still like to hear some ruckus for our side, but with the vast majority of Regental employees just happy to have dodged the bullet, no one on the university side is going to take any chances.