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Parking Lots Or Pilot Program? U Of M Slices Budget

Parking Lots Or Pilot Program? U Of M Slices Budget image Parking Lots Or Pilot Program? U Of M Slices Budget image
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Nobody knows very much about Mr. Wilbur Pierpont, the grand and secretive old man of University of Michigan finance, but then no one knows very much about University finance either. One of the two or three most powerful men in the institution, Vice-President Pierpont has been the University's chief officer for twenty-four years. Under his sure fiscal hand, the University has grown in wealth and influence to the second ranked gradúate institution in the country. Last year its budget totalled S336 million. Under Mr. Pierpont's supervisión, University finance has also become as complex and subtle in lts workings as a team of diamond thieves. This s the normal state of affairs for a large, conservative nstitution, and n easier times sensible persons mind their own business. The times are no longer easy, however, because the University is falling into another of its annual and steadily worsening f inancial crises, about the f ifth n so many years. Mr. Pierpont and the other executive officers are going to have to make some hard decisions. Subject to the usual approval by the Regents, they're about to use impending budget cuts to squash labor demands and innovative educational programs. Reported first in line for execution is the live-in, teach-in Pilot Program, housed in the Alice Lloyd dormitory. The freshpersons and sophomores of Alice Lloyd have become famous for piloting many things over the years, but lately have been scrutinizing dormitory rates and put a voter registration proposal on the city ballot. About to be stonewalled into a strike vote on January 30 are the University's 2,200 teaching assistants, who are also threatened by general departmental trimmings. Waiting in the wings, so far very quietly, are the University's 3,200 secretaries with their own wage demands. Some of them are dlready losiny thöir jobs to budget cuts. THIS YEAR'S CRISIS The most immediate cause of this year's crisis is the state appropriation, which may soon be cut as much as 4% to S100 million. This doesn't sound like so many out of the University's hundreds of millions, but costs are rising and revenues dropping on all sides. The legislature has cut before, and in recent years research money has declined sharply relative to inflation. Tuition and dormitory rates have been jacked to breathtaking heights (52,840 for out-of-state uate tuition), but still don't bring n enough cash for the established needs. Governor Milliken has warned the University'against raising tuition again, so there's nothing left but to cut the budget. Whatevër the administrator's decisions, they are sure to be dedicated to the University imperium, as well as utterly detrimental to its lower-class citizens. Hedging with the state cuts, for example, University administrators are offering their quarter time teaching assistants post-tuition , pre-tax incomes of $851 a year, despite the fact that financial aid is difficult to obtain and many of the teaching assistants are going on food stamps. The Gradúate Employees Organizaron (GEO) is holding out for a 20% pay increase to the University's maximum offer of 12%, a term fee of S200 in lieu of tuition, class size limits and affirmative action. Negotiations broke down in January. As GEO stepped up preperations for a strike, however, the University's ace labor negotiator and President Robben Fleming produced the kind of last minute labor ploy to which he owes his position. The concession, án eight percent pay increase retroactive to September, persuaded the teaching assistants to delay their strike vote, but left a long way to the implementation of their demands. PILOT AND BLOOD SACRIFICE l'm confident that all efforts are being made for equitable cuts," a delegatior from the Pilot Program was told by Literature, Science & the Arts (LS&A) Dean Billy Frye one afternoon recently. "It isn't that the administraron is enforcing cuts in other places while we refuse to cut ourselves," Dean Frye explamed. "In fact, we're trying to take a disproportionate share of the load. Most of our budget is out in the boondocks, unfortunately, in the 55 schools and departments, and that is where most of the cuts are going to have to be made." Frye's words were eminently reasonable, but there is still something very unreasonable about the process. The Pilot Program has been around since 1962, combining teaching and living in one of the University's more encouraging environments. 550 people live in the Alice Lloyd dormitory and particípate in Pilot. The instructors are young, outspoken and inclined toward radicalism; because instructors are untenured, cost per credit there is lower than in the rest of the LS&A. The Umversity budget totalled S336 million last year and will probably be a few million higher this year. The funds necessary to save Pilot are S44.000, its budget last year, or the price of about one and a half tenured faculty. So kill a professor for Pilot, someone suggested. From the vantage point of the literary college and its boondocks, it tüd look like a battle between the faculty and the University's underlings. The LS&A executive committee which pointed the finger at Pilot is composed of six tenured faculty members, mostly old and conservative, plus as many administrators. It has no student members, its meetings are closed and it is supposed to be the college's executive decision-making body. According to Dean Frye, the committee concluded that since Pilot nstructors were untenured they could be dispensed with first. The week after deciding Pilot is a low priority item, the executive committee also approved a proposal to re-accredit ROTC. The professors n LS&A and elsewhere were only at the end of a long decision-making process, however. The process began with the University's executive officers, in particular. Frank Rhodes, the Vice President for Academie Affairs. It was Rhodes who told the deans to prepare contingency plans for cuts ranging from one to four percent, and it was the deans who then carried the bad news to the professors on the executive committees. (cont. on pg. 12) U of M budget cuts threaten the innovative Pilot Program and put the squeeze on underpaid gradúate students and secretarles who are rallying for pay raises. U-M Budget continued from page 7 The financial constraints had been calculated by the administrators, not the professors, and the priorities which the professors drew up ref lected those constraints. The faculty priorities, in fact, were very much the product of Vice President Pierpont's financial accounting. PARKING LOTS&RENOVATIONS For accounting reasons, a disproportionate share of the cuts will come from the University's academie operations, not its research, plant and athletic functions. Mr. Pierpont's accounting practices were in fact highly questionable, even to the auditor general of the state of Michigan. Hurling another salvo in the war of paper and politics between Lansing and Ann Arbor, Auditor General Albert Lee, CPA, reponed in December that the University had accumulated $44 million in unspent funds. The grandeur of this statement has been marred somewhat by the University's quick response- "bullshit"-but the report s still around, a nagging series of complaints about how the University tells the legislature one thing and does another. In the very coldest terms, the University has been socking into parking lots, renovations and nest eggs of obscure purpose money which could be going into cost-ofliving pay increases. How important the report will be to the University's state appropriation is open to question. It can hardly be news to the legislators, who have been lobbied extensively by the University ever since they can remember, but it may prove provocativo infoformation around campus. Whatever the well-lobbied legislators can be persuaded not to cut, underpaid University workers and overcharged studerrts have to gain. Maybe University administrators like parking lots and renovations because they don't talk back like students and faculty. Or maybe building parking lots and renovations is the easiest way to make the sors and the students stop complaining. The object of t all seems to be standard bureaucratie empire building. In the process of dexterously manipulating money from one purpose to another, the adminstrators are squirreling money into interestaccumulating accounts, building large reserves and creating illusory stabilities. DEPRECIATION Some of the administrative myopia is evident in the matter of the dormitory rates, which are now $1401 for a doublé room and fourteen meáis a week. Housing Director John Feldkamp wants to boost rates another three percent or forty dollars, mostly on the grounds that it will be necessary to keep up with inflation and depreciation. This year he has been challenged, however, by a mostly student advisory satellite called the Housing Unit Committee and its Rate Study Committee (RSC). Unlike previous Rate Study Committees, who have mostly listened to the business manager, this RSC has actually arrived at an independent viewpoint and decided that dorm rates should go down by one and a quarter percent. The difference ssmall, about $60, but of the stuff by which administrative domains are built, curtailed and even overthrown. The RSC thinks this can be effected by cutting administration funds 10%, managing maintenance and repair costs more tightly, and delving into overblown reserve accounts. Mr. Feldkamp wishes to continue building a depreciation and reserve fund past the present $4.7 million mark, two and a half times what it was three years ago; doesn't think administration should be cut and wants to add a factor for inflation. The students in Pilot, the teaching assistants and the secretarles wanted to add a ' factor for people. The humming administrative domain with which they are dealing usually grows, but doesn't respond much to pressing needs around t. "The University has sizeable amounts of money and it can spend the money for what it wants," said a spokesperson for the auditor general last week.