I’m in receipt of an anonymous letter, said to be from a University of Arkansas faculty member, who’s a little chapped that top UA officials have been on a trip to Rome and Venice this week shortly after Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz’s recent speech about a need for budget belt-tightening.
The letter also snarks about the number of trips UA President Donald Bobbitt has managed to work in to the UA’s center in Rome. I don’t have a precise count on that yet, but I reported about a trip by Bobbitt and five UA trustees last October. Fine hotel, fine food and fine sightseeing amid work.
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The purpose of these trips is to learn about the University of Arkansas Rome Center, established in 1989 for study abroad.
On this trip are President Bobbitt and his wife Susan; Chancellor Steinmetz and his wife Sandra Sue; the chancellor’s chief of staff Laura Jacobs and her husband Cade, and Curt Rom, associate dean for international education, and dean of students Melissa Harwood-Rom. No cost estimate yet, but UA covered the cost, except for travel costs for spouse Cade Jacobs and Sandra Sue Steinmetz.
Alas, this itinerary didn’t specify dining options as the trip last October did. I had fun then visiting the eating spots by Internet.
The delegation arrived last Monday. The group moved on to Venice Thursday and the Hotel Palace Bonvecchiati. Purpose of Venice side trip: to tour the Fay Jones School of Architecture and Design exhibit at the Venice Biennale, an art and architecture exhibition.
The travelers were to return to Arkansas today and Sunday.
The travel irked my anonymous correspondent because of Steinmetz’s recent talk about budgeting during his investiture. Academic colleges have been asked to cut budgets by 1 percent each year for the next three years, beginning July 1, and to reallocate the money in line with his eight guiding priorities. State support for colleges isn’t expected to increase in the current era, though Gov. Asa Hutchinson plans a major announcement on a higher education spending formula Monday. UA tends to fare better on success-based spending formulas, in vogue now, because it has a student body of higher scoring students who tend to have a higher graduation rate than that of other state schools.
Credit Steinmetz, by the way, for a little noticed proposal. He’s going to ask for a greater contribution to the university from the Athletic Department, which has traditionally given about $2 million, or less than 2 percent of the more than $100 million it gets from contributions, ticket sales and a lucrative TV deal with the SEC. He hasn’t firmed up a number yet. It would be for the year starting July 1. For some perspective: The salaries of the football coaching staff total about $8 million a year.
UPDATE: An e-mail message from traveler Laura Jacobs:
Just read your Rome post: your anonymous faculty member may have missed that the chancellor is cutting the same percentage from his budget as well, which is an important fact.