With a debt of more than $30 million, a plea to the state Legislature on the table that would allow another institution to take it over and a recent slashing of jobs, it looks like things couldn't get much worse for the College of Santa Fe. But even the current semester isn't safe.
In an hour long discussion with students, staff and faculty, CSF President Dr. Stuart Kirk announced the drastic measures the school is taking just to make it through to May. According to Kirk, in November of 2008 the school secured funding to make it through the spring semester. Much of that funding came from a real estate deal in which Highlands University would acquire a plot of land from CSF. According to Kirk, on Thursday of last week Gov. Richardson blocked the deal feeling that the land acquisition would have a negative impact on the Legislature.
On Friday Kirk and Board Chair David Chase met with department Chairs in an emergency meeting to whittle out funds for the remainder of the semester. According to Kirk, at today's meeting, "the only thing left is to look at administration, faculty and staff salaries." The deal is not done but on Wednesday a proposal will go to the board to renew fundraising efforts with the community, board, alumni, etc. as well as a proposal to cut those aforementioned salaries by 20%-40%, with 25% being the average according to Kirk, for the remainder of the semester.
As was reported in the Albuquerque Journal
and the Santa Fe New Mexican
over the weekend, part of the issue that led to CSF's financial downfall is an allegation of fraud that stems from a 2006 bond transaction. According to Kirk, who became CSF's president less than a year after the transaction, "we don't know if it's fraud or misinformation that was given legitimately."
Regardless of past actions, the students and faculty at CSF remain optimistic about a Highlands takeover, though realistic about the plan if that falls through. After more than a year and a half of possible takeovers, first Savannah School of Art and Design
, everyone is a little more cautious about calling a deal done. While Kirk maintains that Gov. Richardson and Mayor David Coss are behind the Highlands/CSF deal the CSF Assistant Professor of Interdisciplinary Studies and Humanities and Interdisciplinary Studies Chair Susan Marcus is currently working on a teach-out plan that would allow students with less than 48 credit hours remaining on a degree to either graduate from a partner school (in this case most likely University of New Mexico) or that would allow CSF to keep its accreditation for one year so that students would attend classes at another school but still graduate with a College of Santa Fe degree.
At the meeting with Kirk, students, who have put together a strong face at the Legislature
on several occasions, voiced their concerns and sympathies for the staff and faculty who will be most financially affected by the measures, which Kirk describes as "draconian." Many staff asked Kirk if the board would be included in the pay cuts to which he could only respond that he "can't say at this time."
Kirk is scheduled to meet with faculty on Tuesday and the Board of Trustees on Wednesday to finalize the pay cut plan.
It seems that there is a slight possibility that a few faculty members will be willing to give up their salaries for the remainder of the semester but for most the burden of the pay cut will be hard to handle. According to Kirk staff making less than $20,000 per year will not be affected by the cut and that he and the board are still working to secure donations from the community, alumni and others in hopes that these pay cuts, the school's last resort, may be avoided at the final hour.