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SUNY Potsdam faces cuts with $6 million deficit

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The massive state budget deficit is hitting SUNY campuses hard across the state. Albany has cut the SUNY budget by about 10% already and there's rumblings of additional mid-year cuts. SUNY Potsdam faces a $6 million deficit in next year's budget. The president warned to campus to expect program and faculty cuts. David Sommerstein reports.

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David Sommerstein
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SUNY Potsdam president John Schwaller delivered the grim news at Thursday's convocation.  He said the immediate future looks harsh.  The university used one-shot revenue and the rainy day fund to balance this year's budget.  But next year's is 6 million dollars short.

And since 82% of our budget is expended in the form of personnel, that's salaries and wages, obviously there are going to be some serious repercussions to the size of our workforce.

Schwaller denies rumors floating around Potsdam that some 40 faculty members, or roughly 20% of the faculty, could be cut.

I'm astounded where that figure came from.

Schwaller says he wants to avoid across the board cuts, rather taking a strategic approach to determining which programs to trim or eliminate.  Schwaller says the university will protect its academic core.

In visioning over the last three years, the three main areas that we see as our academic core is obviously to be unquestionably to be the finest arts campus within SUNY, to maintain our historic prominence in terms of teacher education, teacher preparation, and lastly that everything we do is fully grounded in the liberal arts and sciences and humanities.

Schwaller says that leaves vulnerable graduate and research programs, non-credit community classes, and athletics.  He says those programs will need to become more self-sustaining by finding outside sources of funding.

When cutbacks are spoken of, the first thing that we talk about are academic programs and faculty lines.

George Gonos is a sociology politics professor at SUNY Potsdam and serves on the faculty union's executive committee.  He says the university should look to management and administration for cuts, not academics.  But Gonos says the real problem lies not in Potsdam, but in Albany, where state lawmakers have raided SUNY funds to balance the state budget.

It's a terribly wrongheaded policy.  It's the wrong thing to do in an economic recession, to cut back on public higher education and keep people out of school.

President Schwaller says the situation could get bleaker.  He met earlier his month with new SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher.  She said state tax receipts are down, and SUNY campuses statewide may face additional cuts.

For North Country Public Radio, I'm David Sommerstein.

CORRECTION MADE: An earlier version of this story listed George Gonos as a politics professor.  He is a sociology professor.

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