Any budget cut plan at the University of Florida is necessitated by President Bernie Machen’s interpretation of this $38 million one-time cut as a permanent reduction in state support. However, on April 17, the Board of Governors clarified their expectations of the state’s universities by remarking,
“While this budget represents less direct funding for the universities, we appreciate the stated commitment of legislative leadership that the $300 million reduction will be restored to the baseline next year. Our Universities will continue to tap their reserves year-round in order to save course offerings, retain faculty and account for enrollment growth, among other critical demands.”
The University of Florida’s annual report as well as an independent audit reveal the financial health of the university. Conservatively, the University of Florida is sitting on a mountain of cash classified in many different yet equally accessible ways. It doesn’t matter whether we discuss the $1.015 billion total, the $111 million in “unrestricted net assets,” or the $540 million classified as “restricted expendable.” President Machen and Provost Joe Glover have decided to make permanent cuts to the university’s structure when cutting a check would suffice.
Several faculty, students, and staff have joined a university-wide coalition outraged at the disconnect between state lawmakers and university administrators. The SaveUF! Spend the Reserves campaign is actively protesting this unnecessary austerity.
On May 14, President Machen admited that spending the reserves may be a viable delay strategy but is an ill-advised longterm strategy. We disagree. We disagree because the Board of Governors as well as state lawmakers have repeatedly affirmed that the budget shortfall will be returned to baseline next year.
On May 23, the SaveUF! Spend the Reserves coalition led a teach-in where its members gave short speeches to the public, educating them about the budget cuts and the administration’s strategy. WUFT-FM interviewed members of the coalition as well as an official university spokesperson, Janine Sikes. The Gainesville Sun ran a webpoll and discovered that 69.7% of those polled are in favor of spending reserves to meet the budget shortfall, while only 21.4% favor making permanent cuts (8.9% argue that the university should raise funds through benefactors and other means).
On June 7-8, UF’s Board of Trustees meets to vote on President Machen’s university budget cut proposal.