The co-chairs of the Humboldt State University committee that shares governance over the HSU budget have issued a public letter strongly disputing the findings of an Eastern Michigan University accounting professor hired by the California Faculty Association to review the university's finances.
Dr. Howard Bunsis concluded that HSU had nearly $20 million in money that could be used however the university chooses. The co-chairs disputed that claim. The university Budget Office claims HSU faces a $9 million deficit because of systemic overspending.
The letter from the University Resources and Planning Committee:
On May 3rd, 2018, Dr. Howard Bunsis, an accounting professor from Eastern Michigan University, visited Humboldt State University as a guest of the California Faculty Association (CFA). He presented his review of Humboldt State University’s publicly available financial data that he had performed at the behest of the CFA.
Dr. Bunsis’ analysis of HSU’s budget scenario diverged starkly from similar studies that members of the University Resources & Planning Committee have publicly presented and published over the course of the last two academic years. The University Resources and Planning Committee (URPC) has suggested that, as a result of years of deficit spending, we are facing a budget shortfall that necessitates strategic cuts as a corrective measure. Dr. Bunsis, conversely, contends that rather than facing impending fiscal hardship, we actually have access to a surplus of approximately $20 million that could be used at our discretion. Our findings are clearly at odds.
The URPC is a representative body of the HSU all-university Senate consisting of stakeholders from throughout the University, including students, staff, faculty, and administrators. We convene bi-weekly to review and advise on decisions regarding the distribution of our finite institutional resources.
One of the aims of having a deliberative committee consistently engaged in this process is to ensure shared governance in the stewardship of our revenue towards the success of our students, and we all take that goal very seriously. To this end, the University Budget Office (UBO), acting in their advisory capacity to the URPC, has gone to great lengths to offer detailed and up-to-date information on the financial state of the University, while simultaneously advising on the numerous laws and CSU policies that direct and restrict the manner in which those resources can be allocated. We value differing interpretations of the information the UBO has compiled and presented to us, as disparate readings and understandings can only help us to come to more informed decisions.
This was not Dr. Bunsis’ first appearance on campus. In 2010, he was hired by the CFA, under similar circumstances, to question the administrative characterization of the school’s finances. We are concerned that Dr. Bunsis’ presentation to campus was an attempt to undermine the credibility of our committee’s process through insinuation that we are knowingly misrepresenting both data and policies. Beyond our discomfort with his characterization of our motives and actions, our reading of Dr. Bunsis’ findings suggests that they do not reflect a holistically informed view of the CSU’s rules governing the use of funds.
This is echoed in President Richmond's and Provost Snyder’s 2010 letter to the campus, “The most important point is that Professor Bunsis apparently misunderstood the many laws and policies guiding how HSU spends money. In arguing that HSU enjoyed a "solid financial position" with a multi-million dollar reserve, he seems to believe that all funds can be used for any purposes - that HSU can pay for daily operations using things like parking fees, student housing payments, construction bond monies, and other designated funds. None of this is allowed.” The same holds true eight years later. Dr. Bunsis’ presentation fails to address information integral to the issues at hand and does not convey a wholly accurate representation of our budget, or the financial challenges we face as a University. These are challenges that, left unchecked due to uninformed optimism, could have consequential effects on the sustainability of our University.
Dr. Bunsis essentially admitted that his presentation and report are advocacy pieces, and we unequivocally encourage campus groups’ to advocate their positions. That being said, the URPC and others have been studying this issue, and it is our understanding that we have overspent our budgets for too many years, and must now take action to right our course for the sake of the ongoing health and viability of the University.
Our responsibility is to offer both today's students and tomorrow's students the best educational experience possible. That means sticking to a sustainable budget, a persisting institutional challenge for HSU that has been identified in our last two WSCUC reports as a problem that needs to be addressed. We acknowledge that our stances in this regard are not always popular or easy to accept, but they reflect what we believe needs to be done so that we can all continue the work of providing an excellent education for students at Humboldt State University.
Information, updates, and reports related to the University’s budget are available on the HSU Budget Office website at budget.humboldt.edu.
Professor of Mathematics