Welcome to the Spring Semester!
My periodic campus updates are intended to provide timely information and updates about select topics of importance to the university community. Although the Spring semester has been underway for only a few weeks, there is a lot of activity taking place across campus, and great things are happening at Delta State.
1) Winter/Spring Activities
The campus calendar is filled with a wide array of exciting activities ranging from intercollegiate athletics (www.gostatesmen.com) and BPAC productions (bolognapac.com), to conferences, lectures, and student programs and entertainment. A few include:
- Winning the Race Conference, March 27-28
- International Business Symposium, March 29-30
- Go Green Weekend, April 8-9
2) Banner Days for Delta State
The university has experienced a number of “banner days and events” recently:
- our first Scholarship Day, which welcomed to campus 25 high-achieving, scholarship-receiving future students;
- a celebration of the Sullivan-Outlaw Professorship awarded to Faculty Senate President and Assistant Professor Chris Jurgenson;
- the celebration of the first professional development faculty cohort that completed the ACUE course on “Effective Teaching Practices;” and,
- the official opening of the upgraded student health center that features a university partnership with Bolivar Medical Center.
Thanks to everyone who helped to orchestrate these exciting and important events and opportunities on campus.
Our governing board, the Mississippi Institutions of Higher Learning Board of Trustees, recently approved a 5% increase in Delta State’s tuition—an increase of $315 per year—effective with the Fall 2017 semester. The new base tuition for the year will be $6,613, still one of the lowest tuition rates in the nation and a terrific educational bargain for our students.
On the heels of the university’s third straight year of enrollment increases, this spring’s enrollment is 81 students ahead of last spring’s total. Total enrollment for the Spring 2017 semester is approximately 3,300.
5) New Chief of Police
Congratulations to Delta State’s new Chief of Police, Jeff Johns, who has served ably as our Interim Chief since the fall.
6) Facilities construction and major renovations
There has been a lot of activity on campus in recent months surrounding facilities projects, and there is a lot more to come. Here is a short list of some of those projects:
- Completed street paving project
- Completed Caylor-White/Walters renovation
- Razed old president’s residence, and requesting legislative funding to build a replacement residence
- Zeigel Hall renovation project scheduled to begin this spring, with the first step to build an addition on the west side of the facility. All programs/faculty/classes will move to Ward Hall or elsewhere on campus while work is being done to the main building.
- Young-Mauldin Dining Hall renovation scheduled to begin in spring/summer. During closure, meal service will be relocated to the State Room in the H.L. Nowell Union.
- Statesman Boulevard construction scheduled to begin later this year, and will connect Highway 8 to the intercollegiate athletic complex.
7) State Budget Cuts
Finally, this is news I would rather not have to report, but it is important that all campus constituencies understand the budget pressures that exist. The state has cut all public universities’ budgets FOUR times since January, 2016. All four of these cuts were made during the middle of the budget year, which doubles the negative impact because of their timing.
For DSU, the state’s mid-year cuts over the last 13 months total $1,457,593.00—$435,068.08 last January; $289,801.92 last April; $386,717.00 in September; and, $346,006.00 just two weeks ago. The percentage cut is a whopping 6.5%—3.2% in FY 2016 totaling $724,870, and 3.3% already in FY 2017 (the current fiscal year in which we are operating) totaling $732,723.
On top of these cuts, we are hearing that the outlook is very grim for either legislative restoration of these cuts or an increase in funding for the next fiscal year. We are also being advised to expect another mid-year cut, possibly this April.
The university simply cannot continue “absorbing” these cuts. Something has to give. We are looking carefully at ways to avoid or to minimize program or personnel cuts on our campus, but we can no longer operate the campus at a “status quo” level when we have had nearly $1.5 million removed from our budget in the last year.
So, at this point, the Cabinet and I have decided that the appropriate university response is to implement immediately a campus-wide hiring freeze and a spending “slow-down.” These two measures together will provide savings totaling $570,000 that will help offset the $732,723 budget cut from the state in the current fiscal year. If we do, in fact, receive another mid-year budget cut from the state this spring, other measures will have to be considered.
This hiring freeze is in effect from now until June 30, 2017 and includes all positions that are currently vacant as well as those that may come open during the next five months. During this time, only those vacant positions deemed essential to university operations will be filled, and requests to fill these essential positions will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the Cabinet. Please direct any questions about the status of vacancies in your area to your Dean, Vice President, or respective Cabinet member.
The spending “slow-down” is also in effect from now until June 30, 2017 and affects university purchases of any kind—including travel, supplies, and contractual services not already in progress—and that are not deemed essential to university operations. If you have questions about items that are considered “essential to university operations,” please consult with your Dean, Vice President, or respective Cabinet member.
As a public university, we will always have challenges. But, it is the way we respond to those challenges and manage the obstacles we face that will determine our future success. Together, we will meet the current budget challenges head-on while we continue our quest for excellence on this campus. Thank you for your help, support, and understanding.