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Wednesday, February 21, 2024

During his State of the University Address at the Faculty Senate meeting Thursday, UF President Bernie Machen highlighted the continuing need for more funding, UF's research success and other obstacles facing UF this year.

"We are facing an economic slowdown of some magnitude," Machen said.

He attributed many of UF's financial woes to the Florida Legislature, such as the state budget approved in May that didn't allow for a tuition increase this year.

The lack of wiggle room in the budget failed to provide funding for faculty salary increases and support for the Florida Opportunity Scholars Program.

"As if that isn't bad enough, we were notified there would be a four percent reduction in the budget," Machen said.

Despite a previously announced hiring freeze, Machen said an exception will be made for 15 faculty positions in high-demand academic areas that will be added within the year.

The first five areas that will receive faculty are the botany, applied physiology and kinesiology, chemistry, English and psychology departments.

Machen said the remaining 10 positions have not been named.

UF has also established the Cost Reduction Efficiency Task Force to trim the fat from UF's budget.

"We all understand and recognize that these are very difficult times," Machen said.

The task force has a targeted reduction budget of ,30 to ,34 million for this year with plans to deduct 25 percent from academics and libraries and 75 percent from administrative support.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has been allocated a smaller reduction budget to balance its ,4 million accruing debt.

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Despite the ongoing battle for financial security, Machen celebrated the record ,583 million in research awards received, and discussed the incoming freshman class.

About 6,700 freshmen started classes on Thursday, with diverse ethnic representations, he said.

White students still hold a majority, but 15 percent of the new class is Hispanic, 13 percent is black and the remaining 10 percent Asian.

Enrollment for the fall also suggests students are carrying an average of 13.5 credit hours. UF is still pushing for students to carry 15 hours a semester, Machen added.

"You cannot graduate in four years if you take a course load of that size," Machen said.

He also spoke about several construction projects in the works. More than ,750 million is invested in buildings such as the George Steinbrenner Band Building and the Shands ,400 million cancer research building.

In an interview after the meeting, Machen said students need to understand the difficulties university employees face.

"It would be nice if we had a little more appreciation for the job the faculty is doing," he said.

He also said he was concerned about the morale of the university and stressed the need to come together as faculty begin a year without raises.

"It would be a tragedy for faculty being promoted to not receive that raise," he said.

In an interview after the meeting, Bill Kem, a faculty senator for the College of Medicine, said that he would like to see more incentives in place to keep faculty optimistic.

"We could enhance faculty work conditions by developing ways to receive more recognition," Kem said.

He said if an incentive program was in place to encourage them to pursue inventions, the university's financial woes could be lessened.

"The royalty stream is not as favorable as many universities that we'd like to be like," Kem said.

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