By Andrew Fraley and Najib Aminy
Provost Eric Kaler laid to rest rumors that 388 classes in the Arts and Science program were being dropped, and that numerous adjuncts were being replaced by graduate teaching assistants.
The SUNY budget was passed a week ago, and despite a 2.9% budget cut for all schools in the SUNY system, Provost Kaler said he was pleased with the decisions made in Albany, as he had previously informed the Deans of Stony Brook to expect a 4 to 5% decrease in the budget. “A week or ten days ago it was a very dynamic situation in Albany, it was unclear what the magnitude of the cut would be. When the idea came about that it would be a five percent cut, I told all of the Deans to be prepared for that magnitude of a cut,” said the Provost. In response, there were actions taken by Dean of the Arts and Sciences James Staros, to whom Kaler granted permission to freeze a total of 388 classes while they considered the budget situation.
“We delayed the activation of these classes to assess and make sure we had all the necessary funding,” said Dean Staros. In addition, he explained that in a normal year classes would be activated weeks in advance of registration. However, this was not the case this year, due to the uncertainty of the budget.
Dean Staros commended the many people who spent their weekends ensuring that classes were reactivated. “There were a lot of Stony Brook faculty and workers working over the weekend making sure that the students had the classes and what they needed.” Provost Kaler agreed, saying the department chairs responded in a very positive way. “They found additional resources, moved some obligations around, I also generated some additional resources.” The Provost went on to say that all of the classes that were deactivated for a few days were quickly reactivated. “We reactivated over half of them on Friday and almost all of them were reactivated by Monday morning when registration opened,” said Kaler.
There are a total of 11 classes that remain deactivated. Dean Staros explained that this was a result of procedure, explaining how some classes do not fill up as expected, may not have professors to teach them or may not generate student interest. It turns out that, despite a 2.9% decrease in its operations budget, Stony Brook received the largest capital funds of any of the SUNY schools. Of Stony Brook’s predominance, Kaler said, “I think it represents the fact that the programs here are excellent and the state sees the worth of investing and building in it, and it also represents our political support.”
According to Kaler, Stony Brook’s budget is comprised of several aspects: tuition, state aid, student fees, indirect costs from research activities and a variety of different income from continuing education courses along with summer and winter sessions. In addition, the Stony Brook University Hospital has access to all the fees and funds for patients. “The university budget is a complex entity,” said Provost Kaler.
Responding to the rumors concerning adjuncts being replaced by graduate teaching assistants, Provost Kaler claimed he had no knowledge of it happening. “That is actually the first I heard of that, so I don’t know if that’s true. Those decisions are made at the departmental levels.” Dean Staros confirmed Kaler’s beliefs. “Each department decides proposal use of regular faculty and advanced TAs who can teach certain classes.”
The Provost also spoke about the controversy regarding graduate student pay disparities. Incoming graduates receive a fellowship of $2,000, and current graduates feel cheated about it. Kaler said, “All the TAs will be paid $15,145 in all years. In addition to that, the entering first year students have a first year fellowship of $2,000. We’ve done that [new] fellowship to encourage those students to come to Stony Brook.” Many graduate students are protesting the fellowship. “Many students have other fellowships or access to other support during their time here, so there is a spectrum of support that graduate students receive already across the campus,” Provost Kaler continued. He explained that graduate students get paid differently in each department, and they receive money for whatever fellowships they have attained. A fellowship is a form of academic financial aid.
For students, the 2.9% percent budget deficit does not threaten a rise in tuition. This does mean that some of the resources offered may be scaled back, according to the Provost. Resources may be shifted, but the 2.9% loss must come from somewhere. The details of the new budget, however, have yet to be released.