Nov 202008
 
Authors: Aaron Hedge, J. David McSwane

Emerging from the criticisms of his predecessor and looming economic uncertainty, CSU Interim President Tony Frank has vowed to bolster the academic core of CSU and decrease spending on administration, which he says went “a little too far.”

“There are some things we’re willing to tighten our belts on,” Frank said. ” . the first place you want to do it is administration, and the last place you want to do that is academics . but let’s be honest, if the economy takes a dive the way it has appeared to in other states, there will be cuts everywhere.”

Frank said that while the administrative overhaul and drastic increase of administrative budgets and salaries that occurred under former President Larry Penley may have been excessive, “we really needed the people.”

Citing a historic slump in state funding that occurred in 2003 that forced cuts in administration, Frank said as the school’s budget rebounded and the school expanded, more vice president-level spots were necessary.

During that time, Frank said he was proud that “(administration) minimized the affect on the colleges.”

And as a sour economy adds insult to injury with respect to CSU’s dubious financial state, he promised that the first place that would see budget cuts is the administration, not the academic colleges or the library.

“I’d certainly like to start with administration first, and I think we have a responsibility to do that,” he said.

Frank’s promise to direct financial focus to CSU’s starving classrooms comes after a series of articles in the Collegian reported that, under Penley’s tenure, administration was seeing more financial support than academics while tuition and fees increased sharply by 52 percent and 73 percent, respectively.

But while Frank has promised more transparency in financial reporting and has already cut about half a million dollars in administration, he said he takes issue with the reports because “there’s a lot of gray areas that can’t be quantified.”

Citing examples like the dual role of college deans as both administrators and professors and spending by VPs that funds things like financial aid, Frank says the academic mission of the university is still paramount.

“Funding by any area isn’t a good way of telling if something is academic or administrative spending,” he said. “The same goes the other way. You’ve got stuff in the middle.”

Frank has pledged to increase transparency in the university’s financial reporting and has charged Allison Dineen, vice president for Finance, with providing periodic budget and analysis reports to the CSU community.

In a report to the campus community, Dineen said administrative spending does not outpace that of the academic colleges.

While the Collegian reports calculated administrative spending vs. academic spending by comparing the overall budgets of the president, vice presidents and other departments against the budgets of the academic colleges and library, Dineen calculates “institutional support” from a much broader pie that includes the university’s total revenues, which includes hundreds of millions of dollars from non-discretionary research grants.

“I don’t know that there’s a best approach,” Frank said. “The best thing you can do is get involved in the discussion . We’ll be a better institution if we have those discussions. That’s something we need to do a better job of as a university.”

John Straayer, a long-time political science professor and outspoken critic of Penley, said that under the former president, spiking tuition and fee increases were unfairly spent outside of instruction.

“Disproportionately, new money was not going into instruction,” he said. “I just wasn’t comfortable with the direction of the university.”

Straayer said he is optimistic and pleased to see changes under Frank’s administration.

“There’s just a comfort level that I feel that I didn’t before,” he said.

While he wasn’t specific about any plans to restructure administration, Frank said, “I think actions say a lot . We’ll always keep the academic mission of the university at heart.”

Development Editor Aaron Hedge and Enterprise Editor J. David McSwane can be reached at tips@collegian.com.

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