College of Letters and Science bets on philanthropy to meet budget targets

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Zainab Ali/File

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The College of Letters and Science is aiming to reduce its budget deficit to $383,000 for fiscal year 2018, a target that will require a $203,000 reduction in expenses and a doubling of gift revenue from $50 million to $100 million.

With an unfamiliar flair of transparency, the campus released online the entirety of its annual budget early last week, publishing more than 40 documents detailing each division’s strategy to reduce the campus’s $110 million deficit — the majority of which reiterated Letters and Science’s increased revenue tactics.

This year’s “open and transparent” approach is part of a renewed methodology for the campus budget process, according to campus Vice Chancellor Chief Financial Officer Rosemarie Rae in a sit-down interview with The Daily Californian. By announcing division budgets side-by-side, “each division is now gaining a greater appreciation for other divisions,” according to Rae.

“I think it’s really interesting that these budget sheets were made public. I don’t think we’ve done that before,” said Frances Hellman, Dean of the division of Mathematical and Physical Sciences. “We all want to be transparent, but it can lead to more problems. It can lead people to being helpful to each other or being competitive — let’s hope people are helpful.”

In addition to transparency, this year’s budget is notable for its strong emphasis on philanthropy as opposed to reductions.

According to the Letters and Science budget, the division hopes to — and must — receive an “unexpected relatively unrestricted one-time gift” of $1.5 million for fiscal year 2018 in order to meet the college’s budget improvement target, while also “exploring options for addressing the division’s structural deficit.”

Right now, however, Math and Physical Sciences has only one employee dedicated to the generation of revenue.

Hellman added the position about two years ago but said the role is not strictly defined as fundraising. Instead, the employee is tasked with updating Letters and Science college websites, organizing events and creating newsletters for alumni, among other revamping efforts to further encourage engagement.

“We hope that it starts as a trickle and moves into a stream,” Moldenhauer said. “There are of course some people who have done really well — people who were in at the beginning of Google.”

In fiscal year 2017 Letters and Science reduced its deficit by about $256,000 largely because of an unanticipated donation of $250,000.

The fiscal year 2018 budget actually began to form in December 2016, according to Rae. As part of a long-term plan to reduce the deficit, the campus was required to shrink its $110 million hole by $53 million this year, leaving $57 million in deficit remaining.

In 2016 the deficit was reduced from $150 million to $110 million primarily through expense reductions, otherwise known as cuts.

According to Hellman, budget creation commenced last spring when she was first informed by campus officials of her overall target. Hellman then began working with department chairs to prepare a rebuttal budget, and after presenting on this revised target to campus she allowed to cut about $100,000 less than originally told.

Hellman says this was because she was able to make the case for her department, which has seen many cuts in the last couple of years, demonstrated increased efficiency and is anticipating an influx of student enrollment.

About half of the campus divisions were granted smaller reductions than initially instructed, all in an effort to “spread not as a cut, but as a target,” according to Rae.

“They are trying hard to do this through revenue generation rather than cuts,” Hellman said. “We’re definitely all hoping that this will work.”

Audrey McNamara is the executive news editor. Contact her at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @McNamaraAud.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this article incorrectly attributed Frances Hellman’s quotes to Ellen Moldenhauer.