Letter from Chancellor about Budget and Special Session - 2009 Budget Reduction Process

Dear Colleagues,

As I am sure you are painfully aware, the Nebraska Legislature is in special session considering how to reduce a considerable shortfall in the state's budget. While we are making the case for the university, we also have accepted the fact that the university will have to be part of the solution. President Milliken testified as such earlier this week. Thus it is very likely that we will undertake another round or two of budget reductions beginning after Thanksgiving break. It is too early to hazard a guess as to what amount will be required but I fear it will be substantial. Part of the reduction will come in this fiscal year, now almost half over, so we face the need for temporary reductions as well permanent reductions.

I have been asked by several faculty and deans about potential hires and whether current searches should continue. I know the investment in time, energy, and money required to conduct a search is substantial and it is frustrating to see it go to waste if we subsequently decide for budgetary purposes that the hire cannot be made. I cannot of course eliminate all uncertainty other than impose a hiring freeze, something I am reluctant to do. Thus for now, any search currently under way must be authorized again by the cognizant Vice Chancellor before any offer is made. I have asked the Vice Chancellors to evaluate not only the importance of the search to the unit and to university priorities, but also whether making the offer is responsible in light of the impending budget reductions. We will make every effort to make decisions in a timely way.

I know we have all tried to be good stewards of the resources we have, but extra efforts need to be made now to preserve cash, and I hope all units will be conservative in their spending decisions. It still won't hurt to turn off the lights and computers when not needed.

I am now in my 10th year as Chancellor and this will be the seventh budget reduction I have been asked to make. As in the earlier six, we will do our best, with your help, to preserve the core of the university and our current momentum. Our longterm well-being depends on our continued efforts to enhance student learning, research, and outreach to Nebraska and I am confident that we can again manage this challenge and still move forward. There is some solace that we remain better off than other public universities. If you get feeling down, you should explore the Web sites of some of our peer institutions to see what they are being asked to manage. It isn't pretty. If this doesn't do the trick, you might try viewing the movie "How the Grinch Stole Christmas." Looks like I get to play the title role again.

As always I will try to keep you informed about what is ahead of us. And as always I will value your suggestions and counsel along the way.

Harvey Perlman