“It is so hard to be knowledgeably critical or knowledgeably enthusiastic with so little information to go on,” said art professor Rein Vanderhill on the issue of funding at Northwestern. There is a lot of conversation on campus about the distribution of funding. Particularly given the budget cuts of recent years, how is the money distributed and who decides these proportions?
According to Doug Beukelman,Vice President of Financial Affairs, the budget as a whole is determined by the administrative council and the budget committee, which includes all the vice presidents. Academic departments prepare a budget proposal at the beginning of each school year, and that proposal must be approved by the budget committee. The department chair determines how this money is spent—supplies, trips, events, etc. There is proportional variation in department budgets according to supply needs and the nature of study. Music, theater and art departments naturally have a larger budget because of the necessary equipment and maintenance.
Budget is a broad and complex matter. Beukelman defined two facets of budget: capital and operational. The capital budget pays for items that last for a duration of years—computers, for example. Things that keep the college working and active, like faculty salaries and programs (academic and athletic), come out of the operational budget. Distribution among these areas can be viewed in a broad sense from these percentages. From the operating budget, the instruction budget is 31.5%, academic support makes up 9.7% and athletics 5.5%.
These programs are broad budget concerns. More individual items, like the new sand volleyball courts, are funded by student development, which is a many-faceted portion of the budget including SGA, Residence Life and Student Activities Council.
Art professor Arnold Carlson feels that the art department “needs more than what is allotted” in the budget. He feels a trip to the closest significant art museum in Minneapolis, Minn., is vital to the education of his art students. Unfortunately, the art budget “isn’t adequate to run the trip as would most benefit the students.” He says, like Vanderhill, that access to information on the budget might help to improve the situation by improving understanding.
Beukelman feels that funding and recent budget cuts have been “fair and equitable; it hasn’t been the same, but it has been proportionate.” He thinks that President Greg Christy has been open with the staff about budget. He has made the information available to staff and been very frank about this issue.
“There are always going to be perceived inequities. I would encourage people to get as many facts as they can,” Beukelman said. He encourages knowledge and communication. There is an established procedure for questioning. For questions about academic funding, the head of the department is the first place to go. Next on the list is Dr. Adrienne Forgette, the Dean of Faculty, and the Provost, Dr. Jasper Lesage. For athletics, he suggests approaching the coach with questions, and proceeding to Athletic Director Barry Brandt.