This story was written by Joel Childers, Arizona Daily Wildcat
As the University of Arizona Transformation Plan takes effect, staff and faculty may be laid off, class sizes may increase and the campus may be temporarily shut down during the summer, President Robert Shelton said at a crowded town hall meeting Tuesday afternoon.
About 120 people attended the meeting, where Shelton addressed the UA's financial situation, which has become a major concern as budget cuts continue.
To consolidate expenses, the UA may increase class sizes so that fewer professors are needed and students graduate faster, Shelton said. More drastic measures include closing the university for two weeks, or creating four-day work weeks, during the summer.
"I value all your opinions," Shelton said. "I need -- not just want -- I need to draw on your collective wisdom as we go through this transformation plan, so we do it right, so we implement it with clarity, transparency . . . and we do so first and foremost to make the university better than it is today and was yesterday."
The UA will implement final changes after further discussion and "white paper proposals," Shelton said. The department heads will provide the proposals, suggesting which areas to cut or keep. The transformation should begin in the 2009 fiscal year and be completed by the 2010 fiscal year, he said.
Many people attended the meeting, several standing alongside walls, to share their concerns. UA faculty said they feared budget cuts would jeopardize their jobs.
Though the UA will not fire tenure-tracked faculty, Shelton did note that the UA may not hire new tenure-tracked faculty. But Shelton also said "The university is not ready to implement hiring freezes."
Shelton said he could not guarantee the safety of staff members' positions and noted that anyone let go will be notified at least 90 days in advance, as per UA policy.
While faculty are concerned about their jobs, students may find that they will be able to graduate sooner and save money, Shelton said. Courses may have greater accreditation, which would boost students' credits in a shorter period of time.
One woman suggested the UA allow pre-paid tuition, so that students can save money by not having to pay increased tuition prices. Shelton said he had not heard such a proposal before but he would think about it in the future.
The UA has set a regimented, tight deadline for the Transformation Plan, Shelton said. The "white paper proposals" are due by Oct. 13, while the final proposals will be due sometime in November. On Dec. 15, the proposals will be submitted to the Faculty Senate for review.
"There will be more meetings in the future," Shelton said. "It is important that we hear from everyone."
The university announced the UA Transformation Plan on Sept. 4. The program is aimed at consolidating university expenses, Shelton said in a memo to the UA. The town hall meeting was the third such meeting since the program was initiated.