The University's 1993-94 budget posted a smaller-than-expected deficit amid warnings that the problem will grow unless cost-cutting measures are continued.
Although a financial review completed earlier this year ("Special Report," June/94) projected a $25-million deficit for 1993-94, the actual operating deficit was $14.8 million. About half of the improvement came from one-time items not included in earlier forecasts, such as a $1-million electricity rebate. The rest came from lower medical-malpractice insurance costs for the biological sciences division and a wide range of smaller budget variances across the institution.
Despite this good news, the University's revised 1994-95 budget still projects a $27-million deficit. "Moreover, and more important," said Provost Geoffrey Stone, JD'71, "if we continue to operate on a `business as usual' basis, our budget deficit will more than double again by the end of the decade."
Incurring such a debt is clearly not an acceptable op ion, said President Hugo Sonnenschein:
"Because continuing deficits of this magnitude would severely impair the University's financial health, we are pressing ahead vigorously with a program to return the University's budget to balance."
Sonnenschein, Stone, and Chief Financial Officer Lawrence Furnstahl, AB'83, outlined actions under way to shrink the deficit in messages published in a November issue of the University's newspaper, the Chronicle.
A key initiative has been the formation of task forces to clarify and reexamine the University's mission and to, in Stone's words, "forge a comprehensive vision of our University in a world of more limited resources."
The Task Force on Administrative Cost Reduction has already advised Sonnenschein on how the administration can cut as much as $10 million from its annual costs over the next five years-while at the same time improving service to students, faculty, and staff. The recommendations are based on a study by the consulting firm of KPMG Peat Marwick that analyzed current administrative functions and offered extensive suggestions for reform.
Three other task forces began work this fall: the undergraduate- and graduate-education task forces are exploring topics such as admissions and enrollment, financial aid, budgetary priorities, students' expectations, and faculty teaching and research. Student-life issues such as residence halls, counseling services, and recreational/social activities will be reviewed by the Task Force on the Quality of Student Experience.
Also noted in the Chronicle was a complementary action: setting budget guidelines across the University to bring the annual operating deficit in 1996-97 down to $15 million, compared to the projected 1996-97 deficit of $45 million.
Stone explained why setting deficit caps was an important goal: "If we continued `business as usual' for the next two years, we would have to spend down most of the University's remaining cash reserves to meet our accumulated deficit." At the same time, by permitting the deficit to grow, the University "would create an imbalance so large that it would be almost impossible for the task forces to generate recommendations that would bring us back to financial equilibrium."
Working with Furnstahl and Budget Director Caren Skoulas-and drawing on months of consultation with deans, directors, officers, and trustees-Stone has established four major guidelines for the 1995-96 and 1996-97 academic years, all aimed at keeping the yearly deficit manageable:
Because different parts of the University have different needs, Stone noted, "to put these guidelines into effect, we have significantly altered the budget process to give individual units greater authority to control their finances." Deans and directors have been empowered "to allocate resources in the best interests of their units, and we have enabled them to reap the benefits of their own revenue-generating and cost-cutting activities. Thus, the guidelines described are presumptive rather than prescriptive."
In their messages to the University community, both Stone and Sonnenschein noted that the task ahead will not be easy. As detailed in the Magazine's June/94 "Special Report," the University's current budget problems, shared by many of its peer institutions, stem from four primary causes that have emerged in the past decade: the slowing growth of tuition revenues; an endowment-payout rate that has been lowered to preserve the real value of the endowment; shrinking federal research-grant support; and higher depreciation and interest expenses because of University investments in major facilities.
Despite these challenges, Stone noted a mood of optimism among members of the University community, citing a belief that "we will be in a strong position in 1996-97 to begin implementing the more long-term recommendations of the task forces that will bring us back to a balanced budget by the year 2000."
Indeed, said Sonnenschein, the current fiscal challenges offer the University a chance to "help us crystallize and sharpen our thinking about the mission of the University and its future. What are our priorities as we go forward? What resources are required in order to fulfill the University's mission? How can we best provide those resources? How can we make the University stronger? These are the crucial questions before us."
Facing facts: Stone and Furnstahl discuss the deficit at a recent campus forum. CLICK HERE TO SEE PHOTOGRAPH
Two new professional programs will offer more family-support training for social workers and more opportunities for business students to acquire global experience. Meanwhile, the College has premiered a legal-history center that should set new standards for teaching law to undergraduates.
The College's Center for Comparative Legal History aims to integrate legal-history studies into a general liberal-arts education. Funded by a grant from the Donner Foundation, the center is the first of its kind in the United States, and is also the first center ever to be located directly in the College, where it will coordinate existing legal-history activities on campus.
Codirectors Julius Kirshner and William Novak, who both teach history at the University, developed the idea for the center, based on the belief that law has been overlooked as a course of study for undergraduates. "This is not to say that we want to create a history-of-law department or a pre-law program," says Kirshner, "but rather that we're interested in orienting our students to the values found in legal texts as they have helped shape society."
Two undergraduate fellowships for study abroad and a fellowship for postdoctoral research have been created in conjunction with the center, which will offer workshops and seminars, including an international conference scheduled for 1997. In addition, the center will develop new course materials. "One of the reasons that law has been overlooked in liberal education is that the texts are difficult-they aren't translated into English, and they're technical," says Kirshner. Sources will be developed from the Middle Ages to the early modern period, translated from the original languages.
In the latest in a series of steps to globalize its business-education curriculum, the Graduate School of Business has created an International M.B.A. Degree. The degree, said GSB Dean Robert Hamada, is a response to the fact that "employers who hire our graduates for careers in international business want people with substantial knowledge of the culture, society, and language of a foreign country." The new degree is "much more intense than simply a concentration in international business," which is still an option available to students.
A maximum of 50 students will be accepted into the program. In addition to traditional M.B.A. courses, the students are required to take at least six courses in international business and demonstrate mastery of at least one foreign language. Students must also spend at least six months studying and working in a foreign country.
The GSB's other international efforts include its new executive M.B.A. program in Barcelona, and its new Center for International Business Education & Research, which sponsors courses in global business.
To meet the growing national need for preventive and community services for families, the School of Social Service Administration has created a new Family-Support Specialization for students in its master's program.
The new specialization "stresses the importance of understanding families-their values, beliefs, and behaviors-within the context of their own communities," says SSA professor and program director Dolores Norton, CLA'75. The SSA, she says, is "uniquely positioned" to coordinate such a program because of its extensive field placements, the positions held by its alumni in a wide range of agencies, and the interdisciplinary mix of the faculty.
The family-support specialization is funded by the A. L. Mailman Family Foundation, the Institute for Research on Human Development, and endowments from Arthur Rasmussen, Jr., AM'43, and the late Elinor Nims Brink, PhD'26. The Brink Family Support Fellowship will also fund eight second-year students in the program.
The new program is part of the SSA's larger Family Support Project, designed to form partnerships with area colleges, universities, and community-based agencies to develop training programs for community-based social workers, and to help those workers acquire post-secondary degrees.
Spanish steps: GSB Dean Robert Hamada visits students at the school's new International Executive M.B.A. program in Barcelona. Officially opened in October, the program is one of several global GSB efforts. CLICK HERE TO SEE PHOTOGRAPH
Drivers on the information highway can now visit the University through its World Wide Web server to get the latest information about campus news and events, scholarly and student resources-even weather updates and reviews of Hyde Park restaurants.
"It's an interesting way of revisiting the University from afar," says Harold Bloom, AM'69, associate director of Academic Information Technologies, the University office that manages the server, which became active in July.
Chicago is hardly alone on the global computer network. Everyone from the White House to the Rolling Stones-and most major academic institutions-now send out information through the World Wide Web. Originally developed at the European Center for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland, the Web uses links to retrieve data "served" from remote computers worldwide.
To visit these servers, a browser must have access to the Internet. In addition, users must connect through specific communications "protocols," such as SLIP or PPP, to take advantage of the graphics and sounds that are a hallmark of Web presentations. (Less expensive types of access, such as LYNX, allow retrieval of Web information, but can't display graphics or play back sounds.) Users also need a software application such as Mosaic to download text, graphics, and sounds onto their computers.
If the procedure sounds a little awkward, it's because the technology is so new. The Web has gained popularity only in the last year or so, says Bloom, but in that time the number of servers-and the number of browsers visiting those servers-has skyrocketed. "We looked at the usage of our own server between July and September," says Bloom, "and during that time about 4,000 different computers visited us." Eighty percent were off-campus.
Part of the Web's appeal is that-once a user has installed the software and established suitable Internet connections-navigating one's way through its myriad offerings is easy. That's because World Wide Web uses a "hypertext" format, in which selected words or graphics (often highlighted or underlined) in a document serve as links to other documents, ad infinitum.
When computer users visit the University's server-its address is http://www.uchicago.edu/-they'll first see on their screens what's known as a Home Page. The Home Page provides a general listing of topics available on the server, such as "Scholarly and Research resources," and "News and Events." These entries are both highlighted and underlined, indicating that they are "hypertext"-simply clicking on an entry will call up another screen with more specific information on the topic and, often, more hypertext options.
Chicago's Web server is actually several servers in one. Although Academic Information Technologies manages the University's primary Web server, various campus groups have also set up their own Home Pages, accessible through the main Home Page, and are responsible for maintaining and updating the information those documents contain.
The number of servers, increasing rapidly, is now over a dozen, including the Oriental Institute, the Smart Museum, the College, DOC Films, the Office of Academic Publications, the biological sciences division, and the Library. Other offerings include the U of C newspaper, the Chronicle (also available through the "Gopher" protocol at gopher.uchicago.edu), which includes a complete listing of upcoming events.
While the list of U of C servers is impressive, it is by no means exhaustive, says Bloom. It's up to an individual academic unit to decide whether to maintain its own server, but, he adds, "I expect more and more departments and divisions to be making information available."
As with any new technology, some bugs exist. Downloading graphics and sounds can be slow, and software design hasn't reached the level of sophistication available in desktop publishing for printed materials. Still, says Bloom, it's only a matter of time before many more University publications-including the Magazine-will be available to readers on the Web.
Written and compiled by Tim Andrew Obermiller.