UND library’s budget focus of campus campaign, blame put on admin costs
Senior Amber Bouret and junior MacIan Campbell sat at a table in UND’s Memorial Union last week as students walked hurriedly past their table, decorated with a banner reading “Save the Chester Fritz.”
“Would you like to sign a petition to save the library?” Bouret asked a passing student.
“Why? What's going to happen to it?” the student replied. After Bouret explained that the library was going to have to make sacrifices because of a smaller budget, the student signed her name.
“We need to do something,” she said as she walked away, one of many who had similar interactions with the pair at the table throughout the day.
A group of UND students then presented the more than 400 signatures to Provost Thomas DiLorenzo at a meeting Wednesday where he promised there will be no reduction in funding to the Chester Fritz Library.
Efforts were spearheaded by doctoral student Cody Stanley, who was upset by a potential decrease in funding for the library, which he considers the most important part of keeping UND a top-tier research institution. He wants the university to allocate sufficient funds to the library instead of funding administrative positions.
“I’m also an NDSU grad and, physically, UND library’s is more impressive, but if I did research on a computer at NDSU I’d have more access to more stuff,” he said.
The library was slated to lose about $600,000 from its budget this year and in February, Library Director Wilbur Stolt said subscriptions to scholarly journals and databases were on the chopping block.
Campbell said that’s simply not acceptable.
“When you become a graduate student and for the professors doing research, there’s no way you can do this or publish anything without these articles,” he said.
But now, DiLorenzo promised to find the money somehow, though he didn’t know where it would come from yet.
“The library is the heart of this university, at every university, and we’re going to fix this problem” he said. “It’s going to be better than it was before because it’s so central.”
A long-term solution?
At Wednesday’s meeting DiLorenzo stressed that, while he has agreed to come up with the funds this time, there is a dire need for a long-term fix. As he said in his address to the campus in February, university officials will continue to look for a way to not only fund the library, but make it better with more collaborative learning spaces.
UND spokesman Peter Johnson said that when it comes to the library, it’s about finding a long-term solution instead of coming up with the money right now.
“The question for me is going beyond coming up with a certain amount of dollars each time,” he said. “We’ve got to find some other kinds of mechanisms.”
While the library’s budget has in fact increased by $2.7 million since 2005, it’s still not enough to cover expenses, as the cost of materials is increasing at a faster rate than the school can afford to keep up.
DiLorenzo plans to release another address to the campus and continue to consult with students on campus to find out what’s important to them at the library.
Students at Wednesday’s meeting focused on perceptions of a shrinking library budget and growing costs of UND administration, including a soon-to-be-hired vice president of diversity.
DiLorenzo said there is absolutely not any administrative bloat at UND and it doesn’t affect the library’s budget because he has always been able to shift positions and money around to make it so that there isn’t excess spending in that area. He said that, in fact, there are very few vice presidents and associate vice presidents at UND.
“We’ve been working with a consulting firm right now who told us that in their experience working with many universities, we’re the leanest group in the country,” he said.
Regardless of the number of employed administrators, total combined salaries for vice presidents, associate and assistant vice presidents has increased 37 percent from 2008 to 2013, and the average salary for faculty has increased an average 22 percent during that time, according to the North Dakota University System.
“At this level of our education, what are they doing for us and for this university?” Bouret said in regard to administrative positions. “What is their role in this that we need that many?”
Johnson said the growing administrative expenses are necessary to keep the university on the right path and in compliance with federal and state regulations.