Dean’s Message: Cuts and Restructuring – or, I Know What You Did Last Summer

At this time of year, I typically sit down to write an enthusiastic, optimistic message to COE faculty, staff and friends, welcoming them back to campus and introducing them to […]


September 10, 2008



At this time of year, I typically sit down to write an enthusiastic, optimistic message to COE faculty, staff and friends, welcoming them back to campus and introducing them to new members of the faculty. It’s usually an exciting and pleasant task. Over the past few years, I’ve grown accustomed to welcoming not one or two, but many new faculty, all with exciting research already underway. In past years, the excitement of returning to the COE campus has been palpable.

This year, things are a little different. Yes, we have impressive new faculty, and yes, there is groundbreaking research underway at COE—but in the wake of severe budget cuts, we enter the year with a mood of perseverance rather than jubilation. We will still succeed, and will carry on our research mission with discipline and grace.   But our efforts are tinged with some sadness.

To recap, here’s what happened over the summer. In May, the university proposed a budget plan that required significant cuts from all 16 UF colleges. As a result, we restructured the College of Education, consolidating our five departments into three. We returned 14 faculty and eight staff lines to UF’s central administration, and closed four academic degree programs. It is frustrating to have to eliminate these positions, most of which were open posts which we cannot fill. It was particularly painful to have to say goodbye to four hard-working members of our staff as part of the cuts.

Whether UF and other state agencies will face further budget cuts is yet to be determined, but given the grim economic news in the housing and tourism areas, we must prepare for that possibility. While other states across the nation and countries around the world have targeted education as a high priority for strategic investments, it’s puzzling to wonder why Florida has not followed suit. The most important asset any government has is human capital, and if that is starved, then Florida stands to miss out on the gains already underway in other states when better economic times return.

Ironically, as the College undergoes a painful fiscal transition, on another level, the quality of work by faculty, students, and staff continues to soar. Grant productivity is at an all-time high; honors for faculty continue to roll in; increased recruitment has resulted in a more capable, and more diverse, student body; staff have performed admirably in managing office relocations and building problems; and, external support from our loyal alumni and friends of education has helped us come close to meeting our Capital Campaign goal of $20 million. Our grant funding has allowed us to hire four new faculty members (John Bailey, Meg Kamman, Melinda Leko and Gloria Weber) and we were granted special budget permission to hire new Assistant Professor Tim Jacobbe, who will help us prepare new mathematics teachers — something the state has identified as a high-needs area.

We are proud to welcome them all. But there is much to be done, and we wish we could have hired several more like them.

The challenges we face this coming year are huge, but given all the dedication and commitment that is evident across the college, I still remain optimistic that we will be successful in addressing them, and achieve even more in the years to come with everyone’s help.

The literary critic William Hazlitt once wrote, “Prosperity is a great teacher; adversity is greater.” It’s a comforting thing to keep in mind. But we teachers are also self-motivated learners, and I don’t know that we need quite as much adversity as we’re getting. One day we’ll be under the tutelage of prosperity again, and I think we’ll show the state of Florida, yet again, that its money is well spent here.