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Centers and institutes face cuts as University protects academics

Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly characterized the nature of the cuts. Bain and Co. looked to centers and institutes as one of 10 major areas examined by the study.

The centers and institutes were addressed by one of several Carolina Counts teams assigned last year to address the 10 areas Bain listed. The Carolina Counts program is focused on making the University more efficient and is not directly assigned to responding to state budget cuts.

The $2 million in cuts was directed solely to the 18 units overseen by Carol Tresolini, associate provost for academic initiatives. Not all centers and institutes underwent that cut. The cuts came as part of state budget cuts.

The pullout accompanying the story incorrectly stated the number of centers that took the 7.5 percent cut. There are 18.

The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the errors.

Administrators are trying to protect the academic core of the University from looming budget cuts. But for many of the 84 on-campus centers and institutes, their classification has proven detrimental.

These centers have not been considered part of the academic core during budget considerations, a decision that has them bracing for cuts in response to a study by the global consulting firm Bain & Co.

The centers and institutes — a mix of curricular, extracurricular and co-curricular groups that receive state funding — offer instructional, public service and research programs ranging from lectures to service-learning programs.

The leaders of the organizations expressed concern that the cuts would reduce their ability to bring in outside speakers and conduct research.

Funded through an anonymous donation for an undisclosed amount to improve UNC’s spending efficiency, Bain’s study looked to the centers and institutes as places to cut because they are only supplemental elements of the academic experience, said Carol Tresolini, associate provost for academic initiatives.

“I tell you, it’s rough,” Tresolini said. “We don’t want to lose valuable programs and people.

“Essentially, we’ve been trying to protect the instructional core of the University, so naturally these centers and institutes have borne a larger share of the budget cuts.”

The team assigned to set guidelines for the allocation of state funds to centers and institutes was led by Dr. Ron Strauss, the University’s executive associate provost. The team, which finished before its March 31 deadline, was one of many that has contributed to more than $2 million in cuts prompted by the Bain study.

Donna Bickford, director of the Carolina Women’s Center, said she thinks cutting from centers and institutes takes unique opportunities away from students.

Bickford said she sees the center as co-curricular instead of extracurricular because it is a tool to expand and reinforce classroom work.

“The pan-university centers make major curricular and co-curricular contributions,” she said.

In addition to the anticipated 7.5 percent cut for the upcoming fiscal year, Bickford said the center has implemented permanent cuts totalling 38.5 percent over the past three years.

“In the past, money we raised from private donors was used to expand and strengthen our programs, but now we are using it to barely hang on to what we have,” Bickford said.

Because of cuts, she said the center will bring fewer experts to campus and rely more heavily on speakers from within the campus community.

“We directly contribute to the academics of the University and I think sometimes people forget that it doesn’t only happen in the classroom,” Bickford said.

Tresolini also said it is difficult to separate the work of centers and institutes from academic programs because the two overlap.

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Richard Silc, business manager at the Odum Institute for Research in Social Science, said roughly 75 percent of its budget comes from state funding.

Due to the cuts, the institute — which focuses on teaching, research and services pertaining to social sciences and is the oldest of its kind in the nation, according to its website — will look to more federal grants and private foundations for funds.

“We’ve been very aggressive in trying to replace the state funding by going out with grants or people partially funding,” he said.

Silc added that the institute has been looking to groups like the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health in search of alternate funding.

Bill Balthrop, interim director of the UNC Institute for the Arts and Humanities, said the cuts haven’t hurt the organization as much as others because major endowments fund specific programs.

“We’ve been fortunate,” Balthrop said. “The cuts we have had to endure have not had the devastating impact that it’s had for other departments.”

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