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Today's word on journalism

May 8, 2009

The Last WORD

The Fat Lady Sings, Off-Key, Drools

At about this time every year, like the swallows to Capistrano or the buzzards to Hinckley, Ohio, the WORD migrates to its summer musing grounds at the sanitarium —St. Mumbles Home for the Terminally Verbose.

The reason is clear, and never moreso than as this season —the WORD's 13th —peters out.

It's been a fraught year of high palaver and eye-popping transition, both good and not-so-much. An interminable presidential campaign saga finally did end, and in extraordinary and historic fashion. Meanwhile, the bottom and everything that's below the bottom fell out of the economy, with families, homes, entire industries and —of particular interest to WORDsters and the civic-minded —dozens of daily newspapers ("I don't so much mind that newspapers are dying--it's watching them commit suicide that pisses me off." --Molly Ivins). . . all evaporating. What replaces them, from the individual to the institutional to the societal? Are we looking at a future of in-depth Tweeting?

As any newsperson or firehorse knows, it's hard to turn your back on day-to-day catastrophe --we just have to look at the car wreck. But even the most deranged and driven need a rest. As philosopher Lilly Tomlin once observed, "No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up."

So this morning, as a near-frost hovered over northern Utah, the unmarked van pulled into the driveway and the gentle, soft-spoken men in the white coats rolled the WORD out of bed and into a straitjacket for the usual summer trip to St. Mumbles, where the blathering one will be assigned a hammock and fed soothing, healthy foods --like tapioca, dog biscuits and salmon --while recharging the essential muscles of cynicism, outrage, sarcasm, social engagement and high-mindedness, in preparation for the next edition.
Summer well, friends.

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Feedback and suggestions --printable and otherwise --always welcome. "There are no false opinions."

Albrecht discusses budget cuts with HASS faculty

By J.P. Rodriguez

April 13, 2009 | LOGAN -- USU President Stan Albrecht says that many of the steps USU took will help lessen the impact of upcoming budget cuts.

A meeting Thursday at the Eccles Science Learning Center, included Albrecht, Provost Raymond Coward, and faculty from the college of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences (HASS). This meeting was part of a series of meetings Albrecht is having with various colleges to discuss the effects of budget cuts at USU.

"We are continuing to do some positive things in a difficult economy," said Albrecht.

He said that despite the budget cuts, many of the actions taken by the university helped to meet the cuts and lessen the effect to the university.

Albrecht said some of those actions included last month's furlough, a voluntary separation program (where some faculty will retire earlier), and not filling many of the vacant positions at the university. Many of the cuts wore able to be done through the vacant positions, with voluntary separation helping much of the first rounds of cuts, he said.

USU faces cuts in budget for the next couple of years. Starting July 1, there will be approximately an $8 million cut, followed by a $12.1 million cut to follow for the 2011 year, beginning on July 1 of 2010, said Albrecht.

Although steps have already been taken to meet these cuts, Albrecht said that difficult times for the university community are still ahead.

"We'll get through this," said Albrecht. "But I cannot stand here and say that a $21 million cut will be taken without much difficulty"

Coward said that while the voluntary separation did help meet much of the cuts, some of those positions still have to be filled. He suggested that some of those could be filled with less senior personnel, or either part-time or three-quarter time lecturers.

Coward said that each college is treated differently.

He said all colleges were asked to plan for a 5 percent cut. HASS's portion, however, was cut down to about 2.1 percent. One reason for this is that while colleges like engineering receive much of its money from research grants, this is not the case for HASS.

Michael Kennedy, who is special assistant to the president for federal and state relations, said to HASS members to be on the lookout for research opportunities, some of which come up with only a couple of weeks window to apply for. He said otherwise, USU risks leaving money at the table.

"I think there is a case for the areas of excellence that that college has," said Coward, explaining that while HASS receives less grant money than other colleges, they need to make an argument with the legislature to support the many areas where they colleges excels.

One area brought up during the questions after the meeting was language training. Coward encouraged members to make Gov. Jon Huntsman follow through on his promise of a language training initiative in the state.

Yolanda Flores Niemann, dean of HASS, said while answering questions to faculty from that college that the deans wore told to look at several ways to cut costs in their respective colleges.

She said this presents challenges in the face of growing enrollment, and the fact that the college will lose some lecturers.

One thing she said they may consider is to have large classes with a lecturer for a day, which would then break into smaller groups taught by graduate students for the rest of the week; this would keep the quality of a professional lecturer, while still giving students the benefits of the smaller classes.

Niemann said that this is not a certainty, but one of the many things that HASS is considering to meet the required budget cuts.

Kennedy said that the stimulus package passed by the federal government would help soften the blow from the cuts for the 2011 fiscal year. Money from the stimulus will come from both as funding for education, and as research dollars.

"The saving grace is that in the interim, the federal stimulus package was passed," said Albrecht. "[The state legislature] was able to use part of that stimulus package and give us some of that money back."

Although the final cuts will not be on his desk until May 1, Albrecht said that things are being done to get the university through this crisis.

"We are getting near where we need to be," concluded Albrecht on a more positive note.


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