Deputy Provost Brent Lindquist sat down with student media on November 24 to discuss Project 50 Forward, budget cuts, and the future of his office.

Project 50 Forward, a comprehensive guideline meant to help Stony Brook University navigate it’s immediate future, offers three key initiatives that the administration seeks to reform and improve.

One of those initiatives is “Academic Greatness,” a charge that falls to the Office of the Provost. Unfortunately for Lindquist and Provost Eric Kaler, they must try to make and implement these plans during a struggling economy and repeated cuts to Stony Brook’s state funding.

Despite financial difficulties, Lindquist stated that he would do everything he could to protect faculty and academics, and is turning to a few creative (albeit controversial) solutions.

Most of the approximately $30 million in cuts that the Provost has had to make in the last three years have been on the administrative level. Enough employees have taken retirement packages so that no one has to be let go even while departments are consolidating, says Lindquist.

Trimming excess administrative costs could also be achieved through consolidation. Lindquist said that by combining similar departments, money could be saved on administrative costs without eliminating academics or majors.

But alleviating administrative costs and personnel through retirement packages will only go so far. Retirement packages have not yet been offered to faculty, but Lindquist said it could be possible in the near future.

Students, who have until now largely been shielded by the Provost’s office from baring the brunt of the budget cuts, are going to start seeing changes as well.

Physics professor Thomas Hemmick has piloted a class beginning at 7:00 am, earlier than any other class previously offered at Stony Brook. The class of about 450 students meets in Javitz 100, the university’s largest lecture hall.

While Lindquist couldn’t comment on the future of this program, he confirmed that it is possible that other classes could be available that early in the morning as a strategy to save money by offering more classes in a day.

At the same time, the Provost’s office is starting to operate on a three semester mindset, increasingly looking to summer sessions as a suitable home for classes with low enrollment numbers but are still prerequisites for graduation within certain majors.

“We’re looking at the year as having three semesters,” said Lindquist.

A three semester strategy is better than the alternative, cutting the major all together, argues Lindquist.

“Once academics are cut, they are hard to bring back” he said. “That is why we’re looking to save money in other places.”

In fact, while other SUNY schools like Albany and Geneseo are being forced to cut programs, Stony Brook has added several masters programs such as an M.A. in Marine Conservation and Policy, an area that Stony Brook was previously considered to be weak in.

Compounding the complexity of all of these changes is the fact that Stony Brook will be introducing a new Provost in less than a year. Eric Kaler, who has held the title since 2007, was appointed the 16th President of the University of Minnesota two weeks ago. His new job starts on July 1, 2011.

The search for a new Provost is not officially underway yet, but it will likely begin soon, according to Lindquist.

“The process normally takes about 7 months, and July is 7 months away,” he said.

Lindquist did not rule out the possibility of hiring from within Stony Brook. For the time being, he will likely assume additional responsibilities while Kaler visits Minnesota to prepare for his presidency.

Physical changes are underway on campus as well. Beginning next semester, the Old Chemistry building will be closed as it undergoes dramatic remodeling. Lindquist described his job over the last year as working to move the six programs that used to be housed in Old Chemistry to make room for the new project.

Three lecture halls that can hold 250 students each will be added on to the building, and the new facility will resemble other new buildings architecturally.

The money being used for the Old Chem remodeling was previously designated for use to address “critical maintenance,” but Vice President of Facilities Barbara Chernow was able to convince the state that it could be used for a building project.

Other new construction includes a student recreation center and a new building in the Research and Development Park. Projects like these are funded by construction bonds that are less dependent on the economy, so money is still plentiful even while the university faces massive budget cuts.

Despite all of the new construction, it is not likely that the enrollment cap of 2700 incoming freshman that was announced earlier this semester will be lifted.

“The cap…is not space related. It’s about how many students we feel we can give a quality education,” said Lindquist.