Over the past several months, the Eastern Connecticut State University campus has joined the rest of the nation as we have watched our country’s economy falter and enter a recession. In addition, we have heard projections of record-breaking budget deficits for the State of Connecticut over the next few years. Since state funding accounts for 40 percent of Eastern’s budget, our University community shares the concern about the potential impact that the budget cuts under consideration will have.

Such times call for open, frequent, and honest communication across our campus — in this way we can remain unified in our response to the budget challenges. I pledge to you to provide as much information on the state and University budgets as possible, as they develop. There are still many unknowns. We do not know if we will be able to raise tuition rates next year to help offset state budget reductions. We also do not know at this point if any additional state funding will be available to Eastern. We do not know what our enrollment will be next year. We do know, however, that we can think of ways to reduce costs, reallocate resources whenever possible, and find other ways to maintain some control over our own destiny. The implementation of Eastern Works-$mart has provided a jump start in meeting our goal to identify and implement cost-saving opportunities on campus.

As a way to broaden budget-related communications, I feel I can benefit from a team approach to analyzing the current budget conditions. The budget challenges are ones that we must face together, for it has the potential of impacting each member of our campus community. Therefore, I am announcing the formation of an ad hoc University Budget Committee (UBC) to help us through these difficult times. The UBC will be tasked with looking at the 60 percent of our budget that is not dependent on state funding, as well as looking at ways we can actively reduce costs, defray expenses, and otherwise help to balance our budget. In addition to a representative appointed by each bargaining unit on campus, the UBC also will include additional faculty, staff and student representatives appointed by the President. When the national and state economies have regained solid ground, the committee will have completed its work and will no longer be needed.

The people who study, teach, and work at Eastern each day represent a formidable intellectual force, sharpened by experience, and bound together by common interests and values. A campus-wide committee will be invaluable in helping discover innovative ways to manage our budget while conducting their work in a transparent environment. In this way, if difficult decisions have to be made, the entire campus community will understand the process that allowed us to arrive at those decisions. When everyone on campus has access to the same information and each person has the opportunity to ask questions and offer suggestions, we all take responsibility for our future.

Thank you for your commitment to Eastern Connecticut State University. In unity of purpose, we will form the collective mind to move forward and protect the values of this great University.

Elsa Núñez
January 14, 2009