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Tuesday, December 07, 2021

As UF nears the end of a debated and contested budgeting process, faculty members took advantage of an open debate to ask UF President Bernie Machen questions about the university’s method of budgeting.

Machen said he had hoped the Florida Legislature would scale back on cuts to the university, but the state mandated UF cut $38 million from its budget for the upcoming fiscal year. The university’s Board of Trustees will meet June 7 and June 8, when Machen will present a final budget proposal.

The Faculty Senate’s website includes a venue for faculty to make comments and suggestions on the budget, and Machen said he had received a few emails from faculty members. He said the proposals were still open for changes and suggestions, but not for much longer.

Several faculty members asked about undesignated funds and money UF already has.

Machen said some funds have yet to be spent, but the university does not have extra, unaccounted-for reserve funds.

“There is no such thing as an undesignated reserve,” he said.

Machen said the university is stretching funds, and he plans to ask the Florida Legislature to increase UF’s tuition by 15 percent, the current limit. He pointed out that UF students carry lower debt than the national average, and he estimated that one-third of graduating Gators leave with loans.

When a faculty member asked about how the university is planning for the future, Machen said that for now, UF is investing primarily in faculty. The university has hired more faculty, he said, and creating new initiatives is not an option right now.

“If the faculty leave, we’ve got nothing,” he said. "We’ve got a bunch of empty buildings.”

Sue Rowland, a neuroscience professor, spoke about the importance of maintaining Living Well, a health and fitness program for UF faculty, staff and alumni. Several faculty members voiced their opposition to closing it, but Rowland offered a solution.

She proposed letting those who benefit from the program work to keep it afloat.

“Our skills have not been tapped efficiently,” she said.

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Contact Clare Lennon at clennon@alligator.org.

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