Faculty travel money is one of the victims of CSU’s budget woes. In every department on campus, university travel money has been significantly cut or eliminated.
CSU is reeling from a 27 percent, or $34.2 million, decrease in state funding this year. Cutting travel money for faculty is just one of many ways the university has cut costs.
An exact dollar number on the amount cut for travel will not be available until the academic year is over because departments take travel money out of their operating budgets as they see fit, then report the total used for travel at the end of the year, said Keith Ickes, associate vice president at CSU and the director of CSU’s Office of Budgets and Institutional Analysis.
Faculty at CSU relies on travel for many reasons. Traveling to conferences allows tenured professors to keep in touch with their areas of scholarship. Professors trade ideas and teaching techniques with colleagues, present papers and find grant possibilities, according to several department heads.
“Tenured professors get energized about their teaching at conferences. You get new ideas, all sorts of things happen serendipitously,” said Kate Keifer, CSU’s English department assistant chair.
The travel money cuts affect departments across the university differently. Departments that have industry ties or research grants have made up for the cuts with outside funds. Faculty in departments that by their nature do not have these kind of ties, such as the English department, have had to pay for travel out of their own pockets. The English department relies exclusively on university funds to provide travel money for its faculty, Keifer said. The English department has cut its university-funded faculty travel in half this year, resulting in only one university-funded trip for the year, said Bruce Ronda, head of the English department.
Most of the Department of Health and Exercise Science’s faculty travel on grants, said Richard Israel, head of the department. He said that he would be looking for more grant money from the industry to make up for the cut in university funds.
In the Department of Manufacturing Technology and Construction Management, university travel money was eliminated. The chair of the department, Larry Grosse, set up an endowment fund in which industry companies donated money for faculty travel.
Clif Barber, the head of the human development and family studies department, said that each of the faculty members in his department was only given $200 in travel money for the whole year. Barber said that faculty in his department were paying for travel expenses out of their own pockets.
For faculty who are not tenured, traveling is an essential part of the process toward tenure, Keifer said.
Judy Doenges is an assistant professor in the English department struggling to stay on tenure track in the face of travel money cuts. She said traveling was invaluable because it allowed her to meet people in her field and trade ideas and teaching techniques. Presenting papers at conferences is a vital part of achieving tenure, Doenges said.
“You always come back with some new knowledge that helps you in research and the classroom,” Doenges said.
She said she felt that the university benefited from faculty travel by having more experienced, better-prepared instructors in the classroom and more qualified faculty to attract research grants.
Doenges’ colleague Tobi Jacobi is also an assistant professor on tenure track. Jacobi made some travel money part of her contract with the university but she has had to pay for some trips out of her own pocket. She said she had to because her tenure requirements were not going to change simply because there was a shortage of travel money. Jacobi said traveling was extremely important because it is vital to keep involved with her area of study. Jacobi also stressed that the university benefited from faculty traveling.
“When you travel, you’re a representative of the university. It does make you a better teacher. You understand what’s happening in your field and you bring that back to CSU,” Jacobi said.
Both Doenges and Jacobi said that travel money would be an issue in attracting and keeping qualified faculty at CSU. Barber agreed, noting that two qualified graduate students he had wanted to hire at CSU went to Iowa State University. Barber said that if the university could not attract qualified faculty because of budget cuts in areas such as salary and travel money then the quality of education at CSU would suffer.