LEE COUNTY — Florida Gulf Coast University administrators cut 107 positions this year to absorb a $3.6 million budget cut, prompting concerns from some about starting a slide toward mediocrity.
Only one of the eliminated positions was currently filled. The majority were student positions.
The cuts, which are permanent, mean fewer library hours, larger class sizes and fewer course sections. Other savings measures include reducing travel expenses and salaries for several vacant positions, and skipping on technology upgrades.
“My fear is mediocrity; my fear is a race to the middle,” said university President Wilson Bradshaw, who released a breakdown of the cuts on Tuesday. “And that has not been part of our character, and I will do everything — we all need to do everything — to make sure mediocrity is not our goal.
“Excellence will be our goal.”
The budget reduction is the result of a $3.6 million cut from the Legislature, and an additional $650,000 cut based on a state decision limiting FGCU’s tuition increase to 12 percent.
Administrators had recommended seeking a 15 percent hike — the highest allowed under state law — but the Board of Trustees approved only 14 percent. The Board of Governors, which oversees state universities, trimmed that number to 12 percent.
After several consecutive years of budget cuts, Bradshaw said the university has no fat left to cut.
“We were at bone a long time ago,” he said.
Trustee Ed Morton said the budget reduction is unfair to the still-young FGCU, which has far less in reserves and receives less funding per student than other state universities.
“Enough is enough,” he said. “This university is laboring under a significant handicap.”
Trustee Doug Harrison, who advocated for the 15 percent hike, said he feared the cuts put the university on the path toward mediocrity.
“I think this is what it looks like,” he told trustees.
Bradshaw said the budget reductions were made based on students’ best interests.
“The core enterprise of Florida Gulf Coast University is a high-quality college education,” he said. “And we have to make sure that the necessary components of that are not disturbed.”
That means trying to avoid cutting faculty and advising positions, and other spending that contributes directly to student success, Bradshaw said.
“We have, and we will continue to make, hard decisions, and to make the right ones,” he said.
In other board news:
Trustees approved paying a $275,000 settlement to former professor David Lounsbury, who was fired more than three years ago for misappropriating student funds. A judge ruled Lounsbury needed to be reinstated and given back pay. The university appealed that decision before agreeing to settle.
As part of the agreement, Lounsbury cannot seek future employment with the university.
Trustees also approved the university’s 2013 legislative agenda, which includes requests for additional general revenue and funding for a third access road, completion of the Innovation Hub building, the expansion of the university’s chiller plant and the addition of a new academic building.
Breakdown of budget reductions
Office of the President
Personnel cuts: Eliminated 25 student positions — $120,000
Expense cuts: Travel and operations — $8,200; Grant-In-Aid program — $7,500
Personnel cuts: Eliminated 12 vacant faculty positions, reduced salary on seven vacant faculty positions and two vacant staff positions — $1.1 million; eliminated adjuncts for 135 course sections — $334,000; eliminated 31 student positions
Expense cuts: Technology/computer upgrades — $300,000; operations — $150,000; travel — $126,000
Administrative services and finance
Personnel: Eliminated eight staff positions — $332,0000; eliminated two half-time staff and 16 student positions — $115,000
Expense cuts: Campus facilities cleaning — $120,000; travel and operations — $110,000; computer reserve fund — $100,000; capital items — $110,000; student recruitment advertising - $10,000
Personnel: Eliminated two staff positions — $42,000; eliminated 11 student positions — $46,000
Expense cuts: Staff development and training — $20,000
Personnel: Eliminated one vacant staff position; reduced salary on two vacant staff positions — $56,000
Expenses: Reduce the number of Pinnacle magazine issues published per year to three from four — $36,000