Trying to get it right

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Tough budgets; hard times

Chancellor Thorp’s excellent messages about the state of the North Carolina budget, and by extension, the University’s budget situation, tell us that the rocky ride is not over. President Ross and Chancellor Thorp have directed deans and vice-chancellors to plan for permanent budget cuts from the awful (another 5% permanent cut) to the draconian 15% permanent. After the past few years of combinations of permanent and temporary cuts, there is no fat left in our budgets.  It’s really difficult to contemplate permanent cuts as large as 15%, but we are doing our best to develop scenarios that preserve jobs, protect the School and position us for future.  When I say “we,” I mean people at Carolina who are charged with some part of the process. People are losing sleep, agonizing over the numbers and trying to find creative solutions that will save dollars and jobs. We’re thinking about how to share services.  This is personal. Each morning I read the news carefully, looking for signs the economy is turning around (and there are plenty of them), and that those gains are turning into jobs (a less optimistic picture). People in Washington really need to focus on actions that will bring back jobs and create new ones.  

I see so much through the lens of the budget. That includes reading Switch (by Heath and Heath). It causes me to ask what we can do differently in the face of deep, disfiguring budget cuts. It is natural to look at deep budget cuts and try to do what we did before, leaner. It’s just not going to work. What are we going to give up? What are we going to do differently? How are we going to change parts of ourselves so we maintain our strength? Those are tough questions we must confront.

Sargent Shriver: tried to make it right

Sargent Shriver died last week. He was the embodiment of President Kennedy’s mantra of seeing wrongs and righting them. He created the Peace Corps, Head Start, VISTA and a bunch of other programs that took our young (and not so young) people into cities, towns and villages across the U.S. and around the world. A lot of those people ended up in public health. There’s plenty of scientific evidence that Head Start reduced disparities between poorer children and others and gave them the head start they needed. That’s a legacy! Maybe the next Sargent Shriver is one of our students or alumni. We sure need him or her. 

I am looking forward to visit and lecture from Georges Benjamin, MD, Director of the American Public Health Association, this Thursday. He will be speaking at the School at 1:30 pm in the Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina Foundation Auditorium. Meanwhile, we’ll keep trying to get things right. Happy Monday. Barbara

p.s. Thanks to Caitlin Kleiboer for her work to redesign my blog look—and also to Mae Beale, Patrick Gale, Ramona DuBose, Chris Perry and Linda Kastleman for their efforts.

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