Feb. 4, 2010

Theatre, Film and Dance planning for requested budget cuts

The deans of the College of Arts and Sciences have asked the Department of Theatre, Film and Dance (TFD) to cut its non-professorial budget by $1 million to $2 million annually within two years.

The department is expected to propose a range of plans to reduce and realign resources to meet its most important goals at lower cost.

"The deans have identified a few departments that have unusually large expenditures falling outside their professorial budgets; Theatre, Film and Dance is among those departments," Dean Peter Lepage said.

Most of the planning will take place within the department; the process will include discussions among the deans and department leadership, faculty and staff. A finalized plan will then be submitted to Lepage for approval.

"There are two timelines that we are looking at -- one is short term, in dealing with cuts that are necessary for the next fiscal year," said TFD Department Manager Charles Fay. "The second set of decisions is longer term. The department has been asked what they want to look like in the future, and that's going to take a great deal of discussion and hard work. The chair and the artistic director are developing a process for making the longer-term decisions."

Department Chair Amy Villarejo was traveling to a conference and unavailable at press time.

"There will be no changes to the current season," Fay said.

Lepage has stated the first priority in planning for the college's future amid current economic restraints "is the number and quality of its professorial faculty -- the single greatest factor in determining excellence in undergraduate education and Cornell's international reputation. A wave of upcoming retirements has intensified the need to invest in a strong faculty."

Lepage provided the following answers to questions about cost-cutting, the budget process and the department.

Q: Training is a large part of the department's mission and its students' education, for example, in technical design and acting. Could having fewer lecturers and technical staff potentially lead the department to focus less on production and practice and more on theory and history?

A: It is impossible to predict the outcome of the department's planning efforts, which haven't yet begun, let alone the ramifications of the plan they adopt. I have encouraged the department to be creative, especially as they think of the student experience in theater, dance and film. It is possible that in the future, students will gain even more direct experience on stage and in other aspects of production.

Q: Which other units in the college have large non-professorial expenditures?

A: We are working with each department individually and will respect the privacy of those discussions. However, the other arts areas of the college do not have such expenditures. A reduction of $1 million to $2 million would more closely align Theatre, Film and Dance expenditures with those of our other arts departments.

Q: Will losses among non-tenured faculty affect the range of course offerings in theater, film and dance?

A: The department has been charged with serving undergraduate need and recommending alternative student experiences as part of the planning process. Until we adopt a plan, it's premature to imagine how the curriculum will change.

Q: What is the timeline for reviewing the proposals and the final budget decision?

A: I have asked the department to submit multiple proposals with a range of costs by May. They will have until two years from now to achieve full savings. The college is taking on the expense of financing the department for an additional year and a half so that students will have a smoother transition, and people whose positions are affected will have long lead time and more opportunities to plan for the future.