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UND wants better way to spend funds, official says process not aimed at budget, staff cuts

UND President Robert Kelley1 / 2
Peter Johnson2 / 2

UND is looking for a better way to decide where to spend more money and where not to, and it’s asking faculty and staff members for recommendations.

Earlier this month, President Robert Kelley sent a letter to the campus community announcing the “Program and Support Prioritization” process.

“We are designing a new funding allocation process for the future,” he wrote. “We are establishing a process that, over a multiyear period, will enable us to shift resources towards programs and support functions essential to our liberal arts foundation and our mission of teaching and learning, research, scholarship and creative activity, and service.”

UND spokesman Peter Johnson said the university isn’t looking to make cuts to any department. “There’s no end goal except finding a process for making the best decisions we can make. There are no targets.”

Priorities, not cuts

Two faculty and staff task forces will be formed to help develop that process guided by a book called “Prioritizing Academic Programs and Services” by Robert C. Dickeson, Kelley wrote.

Johnson acknowledged that the book could cause anxiety for some on campus because it’s often been used by universities forced to make budget cuts. But in UND’s case, he said, that’s just not so.

“This isn’t about cutting, it’s about prioritization,” he said. “It’s been a tough thing to get people to see the difference, but there is a difference.”

Asked how closely UND will adhere to the process laid out in Dickeson’s book, Johnson said he would have to refer the question to Provost Tom DiLorenzo, who was not available Friday.

Two faculty members of the University Senate the Herald interviewed said they have no concerns about the process so far.

“To be very honest, I think it’s very early,” said Emily Cherry, a music professor and at-large faculty representative. “For me, I just don’t know. I guess I’m just going to see. I’m optimistic.”

“I don’t think it’s atypical for a university to do this in terms of every so many years,” said Barbara Combs, associate dean for teacher education and another at-large representative. “I don’t know as to the depth and detail they’re going into, but as a faculty member I don’t feel like I’ve done anything wrong. The university almost has a responsibility as a public university to study itself occasionally to see how it can change.”

She said she sees it as “a faculty and staff-driven initiative.”


The next step for UND is assembling the task forces, which will begin training in March.

Kelley wrote that the task force members will not be representing any department, but will be asked to take the perspective of a trustee of the university looking out for the good of the whole institution.

They’ll work through the year with the goal of presenting recommendations to Kelley and other administrators in January.

Anna Burleson

Anna Burleson is the higher education reporter for The Grand Forks Herald. She is a 2013 graduate of the University of South Dakota's Mass Communication program and is originally from Watertown, S.D. Contact her with story ideas or tips by phone, email or Twitter, all of which are listed below. Examples of her work can be accessed here.

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