Heading into the first semester as the newly appointed interim president would be quite the experience for almost anyone.
That is except for SU’s veteran interim president, Dr. George “Jody” Harpster, who clutches the reigns of the university for the second time.
However, this go-around presents Harpster with the obstacle of providing the same experience for SU students while overcoming a tightened budget.
“My only concern that lurks in the background is the financial status of the university,” Harpster said. “Over the last eight years we’ve cut $25-30 million out of the budget.”
According to Harpster, yearly budget cuts continue to plague the university, and this is more true than ever this upcoming year.
“Push has come to shove as there is very little left to trim,” Harpster said. “But every penny we save helps us keep your costs low.”
Thus, Harpster and the university must implement a plan of attack in order to cut costs. Harpster explained that one method to reduce costs to the university is to withhold filling vacant positions that are not critically important to the functionality of the university as each office was directed to cut its budget by 4 percent.
According to Harpster, many staff members have stepped up and volunteered to do extra in order to make up for what the university is lacking. Harpster added that offices have been sharing employees in order to save money.
Additionally, Harpster said the university has set forth plans to turn off the coal-fired steam plant that has been heating the university for years. Instead, the boilers will be dismantled and sold as SU will upgrade the heating system to a new, smaller and much more efficient natural gas-powered plant.
“The new plant will reduce the carbon footprint of this campus by 40 percent,” Harpster said. “[SU] has to invest money to save money.”
Essentially, the interim president described SU’s efforts to reduce costs as significant as the faculty and staff are even being instructed to reduce postage when emails or text messages can be used instead.
“It may only be 46 cents, but that adds up when it is being sent to 10,000-15,000 people,” Harpster said.
Although the restrictive budget provides a challenge for Harpster and the university, he describes his overall outlook for this year as very positive with regard to the overall institution.
“Students should notice little change in terms of academics,” Harpster said. “Other than the budget, things are very much business as usual.”
According to Harpster, SU has excellent faculty and staff who are very well trained and skilled.
Harpster is also adamant that SU provides its students with personal attention similar to a small private school and with an undergraduate degree equivalent to any other school in the nation. And going into this year, Harpster expects nothing less.
“I’m very excited to serve again as the interim president,” Harpster said. “I have great hopes that the student body will do very well academically as always.”