The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Reduced budgets force frugality


Many department chairs at St. Joe’s are trying to do more with less this year amid budget cuts that have plagued them since the start of the 2022-2023 fiscal year. 

In some cases, chairs have had to make tough decisions about what gets funded. 

“The reality is we have to do things differently and spend money differently,” said John Stanton, Ph.D., chair of the department of food, pharma and healthcare. “What we have done in our department is basically cut hiring full-time faculty. And we stopped being able to fund a lot of the travel that [faculty] do for scholarly things.”

Stanton said students in his department are continuing to travel, funded by other university allocations and by food marketing alumni.

“If you cut the budget, you have to cut some output that you’re doing,” Stanton said. “We made the decision, we’re not cutting education. And we’re lucky because we get support from the food industry.”

The reductions, and how to effectively manage a budget as a result, have also led to confusion, said Melissa Chakars, Ph.D., chair of the department of history. Cuts in the years during the height of the pandemic didn’t help. Even though departments may have had less money then, they also weren’t spending it the same way, she said, because they weren’t doing as much.

“I feel like it’s been a really weird number of years,” Chakars said. “One thing all of us chairs feel is budget confusion. ‘What is our budget? When are we going to get a budget? Do I have a budget? What can I spend my money on?’”

Thomas Brennan, S.J., chair of English, writing and journalism, said a spending “culture change” is taking place at the university, and that change has a psychological impact on budget managers like chairs.

“We [think we] don’t have money for anything; therefore, we shouldn’t be asking for anything,” Brennan said. “And that’s a really unfortunate place. I think Dr. [James] Carter, particularly, is working very hard to address that, and so are the chairs. But it’s a real challenge … because you start thinking all the time in terms of crisis management.” 

Brennan added that the perception, real or otherwise, that there is no money becomes a “vicious cycle” and keeps people from considering new initiatives.  

In order to clarify the amount of this year’s fiscal cuts and which departments and programs were affected, The Hawk reached out to the university. Responding to questions from The Hawk about the percentages of reductions, who was impacted and whether the university anticipated a need for further cuts this fiscal year, Kelly Welsh ’05, M.A., assistant vice president of communications in the Office of Marketing and Communications, said the university has “a complex budget that operates by matching revenue to expenses on an annual basis.”

“Each year, we follow a thorough budgeting process with the counsel of a budget advisory committee,” Welsh said. “Details beyond this are not public.”

The Hawk also reached out to the five academic deans and Ross Radish, J.D., interim vice president of Student Life. 

Radish declined an interview. Edward Foote, PharmD, dean of the Philadelphia College of Pharmacy (College of Pharmacy), did not respond. Joshua Power ’05, ’16 Ed.D, dean of the School of Education and Human Development, initially agreed to an interview but did not respond to follow-up communications. Sinclair Smith, Sc.D., dean of the School of Health Professions (SHP), responded with an email statement. James Carter, Ph.D., dean of the College of Arts and Sciences (CAS), and Joseph A. DiAngelo ’70, dean of the Haub School of Business (HSB), both agreed to interviews. 

Brennan said the English department budget received two rounds of cuts, the first in June 2022, at the start of the fiscal year, and the second in August 2022, at the start of the academic year. The cuts amounted to about 20% of the department’s budget, he estimated, but he added that he appreciated how “forthcoming” Carter has been with chairs.

Carter said he couldn’t offer a specific number for how much the CAS budget was cut this year, because “there’s different lines and different numbers.” But, “most every department’s budget was cut a significant amount,” Carter said. 

Paul Aspan, Ph.D., chair of the department of theology and religious studies, said his department hasn’t “seen budget cuts affect us any more in this year than in the past few.”

“If someone from the department were to retire, then I think we would see an effect, as replacing that line would not be as ‘automatic’ as it would have been a decade ago,” Aspan said. “But day to day, we’ve learned to subsist on a very lean budget.”

While the university did not respond to questions about the reasons for the reductions, both Carter and DiAngelo said the 2022 merger with the University of Sciences was not a contributing factor. 

Carter said the budget cuts have “more to do with structural challenges facing higher education, which are affecting St. Joe’s and lots of other schools.”

DiAngelo also said the merger was less of an issue than enrollment. 

“The enrollment is off a little bit,” DiAngelo said. “We’re a tuition-driven university, and so that’s where the rubber meets the road.”

St. Joe’s enrolled 7,683 undergraduate and graduate students in fall 2022, which is a 14.1% drop from fall 2021, according to a Nov. 2022 article from the
Philadelphia Inquirer. 

For department chairs in the business school, this means being “judicious” with their budgets, DiAngelo said. 

According to DiAngelo, the HSB budget has been cut by about 2% or 3%.

“We’re just managing the budgets at this stage of the game,” DiAngelo said. “At the end of the year, I have to tell them where they need to reduce the budgets. We’re just trying to manage to be as frugal as we need to be without harming any of the programs.”

Smith wrote that “resource allocation is in flux and budget management is a fluid process,” adding that the SHP has met its budgetary targets without impacting current students, faculty, staff or programs.

Even though departments may have less money, Carter said departments have more control over their budgets than they did the last fiscal year when chairs in the  CAS had to ask permission for any expenditures, a departure from norms. 

“We were able to increase [budgets in] departments who have more control over how they would spend money, so they are able to spend money with less oversight from the dean’s office,” Carter said. “Overall, even though we’re still having to make cuts, I feel like the way that money is being spent is more consistent with the needs of the departments, faculty and students.”

Brennan confirmed that during the pandemic, every request to spend department funds had to go through the dean’s office.

“After the pandemic eased at the beginning of the academic year … the chairs got back the discretion on the budget,” Brennan said. “But the problem was that the budget itself was reduced.” 

Despite cuts, Carter said he believes the impact on programs and students is more predictable than it was last year, and some of what was lost in prior cuts during the pandemic has been restored. 

“This year, we were able to restore faculty development so that faculty are able to carry out research and presentations,” Carter said. “All of the student travel budget that was being approved on a case-by-case basis last year was able to be increased. Spending for social events and academic events, those are all able to increase from last year.”

Carter said managing the CAS has been smoother this year than last, despite the fact that it is smaller.

“We have a better handle on where the money is being spent,” Carter said. “We were able to make the cuts a little earlier than we were able to make them last year, so we’re spending money on the things that matter the most, which is the student experience and the faculty’s ability to do research and the student’s ability to learn.”

Beth Hagovsky, Ed.D., director of Student Leadership and Activities, said while some budgets within Student Life have seen cuts, others that are funded by student fees have not. Hawk Hill Productions, for example, the student-run event programming board, is funded by student activity fees and has its own revenue stream, so it has not faced any reductions.

“That doesn’t usually get cut because that’s a fee-based financial stream, as opposed to operational dollars which is based on the university budget,” Hagovsky said.

But for many budget managers whose funds are tied to the university’s operating budget, anxiety continues.

“I would like to not feel constricted all the time,” Chakars said. “I just constantly feel like I can’t do anything because I’m afraid I don’t have enough money or that money that I might want to spend here, I won’t have it in a couple of months. [If my budget were restored,] I would want little things for students, to create spaces for students to come together and make friends and make cohorts and all that kind of stuff. And two, just a little bit of money to make it friendlier for faculty, too.”

Leave a Comment
Donate to The Hawk News

Your donation will support the student journalists of St. Joseph's University. Your contribution will allow us to purchase equipment and cover our annual website hosting costs.

More to Discover
About the Contributors
Allie Miller
Allie Miller, Editor-in-Chief
Max Kelly
Max Kelly, Website Manager/Multimedia Editor
Juliet Menz, News Reporter
Donate to The Hawk News

Comments (0)

All The Hawk News Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *