November 15, 2018

AUDIO: Professional development unaffected by budget cuts

Webster University has placed a hold on travel and entertainment expenses in an effort to stay within its budget for the fiscal year. The hold will not affect faculty and staff’s professional development funds.

“At this point of time, we do not see this (professional development) as being affected,” said Julian Schuster, Webster’s provost and senior vice president. “Because we do have sufficient amount of other things which we can manage so not to affect something, which is rightfully so near and dear to the faculty.”

The professional development fund allocates money in Webster’s budget to aid faculty and staff in their development. Development can include professional journal subscriptions, travel and registration for conferences and other items to help faculty and staff do their jobs better.

The university announced its projected shortfall in an email to faculty and staff on Jan. 18. The email listed planned reduction areas to offset the shortfall, which in part stated:

“Hold travel and entertainment expenses. If current spending continues, we will exceed this budget line by 12%. All non-essential travel should be held through June.”

Schuster said Webster has increased professional development funds and doubled faculty research funds in the past two years.

“We did not do that (increase professional development funds) in order now to take it back,” Schuster said.

Ralph Olliges, faculty senate president, said the greatest benefit of the professional development fund is that it benefits the students.

“I always want to become a better teacher. No matter how many times I’ve done the class I always look for somehow doing it better the next time,” Olliges said.“That’s the hope of the professional development money. It will help me do my job better so it benefits our students.”

Schuster said the university treats faculty and staff’s basic needs equally.

“We all work here. This is our home, this is our workplace,” Schuster said. “And the staff and the faculty should enjoy the similar treatment in terms of their professional development.”

Olliges said the professional development fund for the 2012-2013 academic year allocated $3,100 per full-time faculty member. However, faculty members are not guaranteed that full amount. The amount of professional development funds is part of full-time faculty members’ contracts with the university.

Before faculty and staff can use professional development funds, the usage has to be approved.

“In the times when we are looking at the expenditures, I think it is all together important that we establish some kind of the criteria and prioritization of our activities,” Schuster said.

Schuster said professional development is a broad term and he encourages faculty to use the fund for development. He also said there is a difference between attending a conference, participating in a conference or making a presentation.

“Let’s now not fall into the mob mentality, which is the fall of when you hear on the TV that the twister is coming, suddenly you have all of the water depleted,” Schuster said. “People just stack for it even if they don’t need it and even if twister is 300 miles away.”

Schuster said it isn’t necessary to approach the university’s budget reductions with panic. He said the university will not try to do anything that would harm the mission of Webster.

“Instead of going to the concrete things — will this or that or this be affected — I think the most important thing is to keep in mind that we will try to minimize the adverse impact of those cuts on the functioning of this institution,” Schuster said.

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