Legislative Update: The Session Begins
Friday, January 21, 2011
Dear Faculty, Staff, and Students:
Our students are back on campus this week, and UT Arlington is bustling with activity.
The promise of another exciting and productive semester is beginning to unfold, and there is no better example of our progress than our Engineering Research Building—which is now open for business. During the past several weeks, faculty and staff have been settling into this magnificent new facility. Research labs are powering up, and classrooms are ready.
I’m also pleased to report that, following several semesters of continuous enrollment growth, we anticipate yet another record spring semester enrollment. We’ll have the final numbers confirmed in the next several weeks.
Coinciding with the beginning of our spring semester is the 82nd Session of the Texas Legislature, which convened last week amid announcements of a daunting state revenue shortfall—projected to be as high as $28 billion. The appropriations bill that was introduced in the House of Representatives on Wednesday casts an ominous, though predictable, tone to the session ahead and, we believe, portrays the worst of worst-case scenarios. The bill calls for deep cuts in appropriations to all state agencies—including state-supported universities—as well as major cuts to the Texas Grants program and other financial aid programs.
As I mentioned in my message to faculty and staff last month, this legislative session will be a long haul. We are hopeful that the House and Senate deliberations during the coming months ultimately will yield a budget plan that is less severe and more reasonable than indicated by the opening salvos. We must remain patient while the legislative session progresses. So, I urge you not to accept or believe the worst of what you hear. It’s far too early to predict the final result.
We are keenly aware, especially against this backdrop, that these are challenging times for everyone, especially our faculty and staff. The news from the legislative session no doubt will continue to be sobering and perhaps sometimes even alarming.
My pledge—and that of our entire leadership team—is that we will do everything within our power to protect the best interests of UT Arlington and everyone we serve in Texas. We must focus on safeguarding the vital resources that support our mission and that are so essential to our long-term goals. We must continue to scrutinize how we invest our financial resources and deploy our human resources to better serve our students and advance our strategic priorities—including our pursuit of Tier One. This will require that we navigate the fiscal landscape with frugality, dexterity, and singleness of purpose.
Clear, open, and regular communication is essential during times like these. We will maintain an ongoing dialogue with the University community through periodic e-mail messages from me and through informational meetings with faculty, staff, and students. The next informational meeting is scheduled for Friday, February 11, from noon to 1 p.m. in Nedderman Hall, Room 100.
Additionally, I invite anyone who wants to verify information or ask a question to e-mail me at email@example.com or Provost Don Bobbitt at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will respond quickly with the latest and most reliable information available.
I look forward to providing you with regular updates throughout the legislative session.
James D. Spaniolo