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The Sentinel

An Eye on the Penn State Administration

Spanier: ‘Lean’ Budgets For Thee, Not Me

The Centre Daily Times reported earlier this week on President Graham Spanier’s remarks at the most recent meeting of the University Faculty Senate. In an unsurprising move, Mr. Spanier warned of buget shortfalls and the need for academic departments to further tighten the belt.

Centre Daily TimesLean Years Ahead, Spanier Warns – Oct. 22 – Penn State President Graham Spanier warned university faculty to prepare for finances that may be “tighter than usual” for the next year or two.

Spanier said it could be difficult for universities such as Penn State to borrow money, which would affect building plans. Higher interest rates in the future could also slow building projects.

The state’s revenues are also in decline, Spanier said, which affects appropriations to the university. He said 70 percent of Penn State’s budget is for its people, and told the Faculty Senate not to be surprised if positions are left vacant longer or lost through attrition.

He said the impact on endowments is a special concern in higher education, because almost all of the endowment is restricted to specific uses, such as a scholarship or faculty position.

After reading that article over a few times, I was rather stunned by how one-sided it was written. At no point in the article is an alternate view for the future of the university proposed. Somehow, at a meeting of the university faculty, the Centre Daily Times fails to quote even one faculty member.

Setting aside the lack of serious journalism in this article, the inquisitive reader will notice Mr. Spanier’s almost exclusive focus on – you guessed it — building construction.

Penn State construction has exploded since Mr. Spanier’s arrival in 1995 as president, and even now, amidst an economic downturn and more than $1 billion in university debt, Mr. Spanier shows no signs of slowing down.

Further, notice his other comment: “[do not] be surprised if positions are left vacant longer or lost through attrition.” So, as campus construction continues on through economic turmoil and budget shortfalls, Mr. Spanier essentially admits that there will be fewer and fewer faculty and staff to fill more and more buildings.

Apparently the economists have already been the first to go.

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