Ghanem addresses Faculty Council reps criticism of DePaul’s budget process, lack of cohesion


Katie Wright

The west entrance to the Schmitt Academic Center (SAC) on Jan. 9, 2023. Many Faculty Council representatives voiced their criticism on the budget to Provost Salma Ghanem last Wednesday, May 3.

The agenda for this month’s Faculty Council meeting did not list either DePaul’s budget gap or the Strategic Resource Allocation Committee (SRAC). Still, the topic dominated a portion of the May 3 meeting, as Provost Salma Ghanem hosted a back-and-forth discussion with those in attendance. 

Many questions and concerns from faculty in attendance centered on what they saw as a lack of cohesion across colleges to make cuts to combat the $56.5 million gap.

“We gave everybody a list of suggested levers, [and said] ‘these are the ideas that you can use, if you have other ideas that’s fine too.’” Ghanem told a faculty member, who asked why strategies seemed vary. “Each college did what works best for their college.”

One major concern among faculty remains the cloudy timeline regarding SRAC’s work and when the president’s cabinet knew of the extent of the impending gap. Several faculty members continue to voice a lack of transparency and participation in shared governance, and at Wednesday’s meeting, some faculty said it seemed like various leaders were given information before others, leaving some blindsided.

Matthew Girson, a professor of art in DePaul’s College of Liberal Arts and Social Sciences (LAS) voiced concern that faculty were not informed of the situation at the same time deans were.

“It was asked that when the budget information went to deans it would also go to faculty,” Girson said. “On March 20, my phone started to blow up because people were hearing that some people were already starting to make decisions…It seems that sharing [information] with faculty as it was shared with various [deans], that didn’t happen.”

Ghanem said she is unaware of how a mark was missed in informing faculty at the same time as and others, stating that deans were supposed to loop faculty in soon after receiving information themselves. 

“[We tried] to ensure deans were being as inclusive as possible,” Ghanem said. “That seems to have gotten broken down.” 

Faculty Council President and serving member of SRAC, Sonia Soltero, also acknowledged a failure in uniformity across the university as some colleges made faculty part of the strategic processes to combat the gap more so than others.  

“I think there wasn’t a directive for all the deans to start the process at the same time,” Soltero said. “Everyone should’ve started at the same time…The rollout was not done at the same time.”

One faculty member pressed Ghanem further on the timeline, asking the provost exactly when the president had the information and when it was approved by the Board of Trustees before going through academic affairs.

“I’m not sure,” Ghanem said.

Other council representatives shared their dissatisfaction regarding a failure to give specific figures and information to faculty leaders through an evolving situation. For those like Marcy Dinius, an English professor of LAS, this lack of information paired with mixed messaging has only added to the chaos.

“Faculty are asking for the changing data and major moving parts…And that’s a legitimate request,” Dinius said. “This lack of sharing information is a major problem at all levels…On one hand we’re hearing ‘sorry that decision has already been made’ and on the other hand we’re hearing ‘we’re still discussing and there’s more discussions to be had, it’s still evolving.’”

Dinius serves as a chapter member of the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) at DePaul. Currently, the chapter is hosting a fundraiser to help pay for an external analysis of DePaul’s finances in hopes that the information found will help restore trust between administrators and the university’s stakeholders. As of publishing, the effort has received $4,030 of its $5,650 goal.

On the chapter’s steering committee, Dinius said she and her colleagues have received reports from faculty in various colleges that deans and budget committee members have already pushed out decisions for fiscal year 2024. Recently, she told The DePaulia that some have voiced requests to revisit a number of these decisions. 

“I’m aware that colleagues in the College of Education, who agreed to take on an increased course load before new numbers became available with the voluntary staff separations, have been asking to revisit that decision in light of the latest information,” Dinius said. 

Dinius told The DePaulia that last week, Manuel twice reaffirmed with faculty a timeline for final decisions that extends into June for implementation on July 1, while some colleges have reportedly already made decisions surrounding cutting strategies. 

Despite criticism from some faculty regarding collaboration throughout the past few months, Dinius said that Manuel described the process as “ping-ponging” back-and-forth between faculty shared governance bodies and upper administration.

The budget gap of $56.5 million is for fiscal year 2024, which starts July 1, 2023 and ends June 30, 2024. Near the meeting’s end, Jay Baglia, a professor in DePaul’s College of Communication (COC), asked Ghanem if there’s any reason for faculty to worry that even more adjustments will need to be made for the budget next winter. 

“We’re 90% tuition [based],” Ghanem said to Baglia. “We live by the revenue that comes through enrollment…The ups and downs are much more volatile than they used to be.” 

Ghanem said that enrollment for the fall is currently in line with projections, with an influx of international students in the graduate population expected. Ghanem also told Baglia and others in attendance that Manuel said that if more revenue comes in next year than expected, it will be infused into academics. She also addressed questions posed about varying figures and information being communicated throughout the process.

“It’s not that anyone is lying about the data,” Ghanem said. “It’s that the data changes.”