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Cruz Bay
Wednesday, October 5, 2022


University of the Virgin Islands president Orville Kean told the Senate Finance Committee Wednesday UVI can cut its budget but only if it receives a separate allocation for faculty salary increases.
Appearing before the committee to push for fiscal year 2000 funding of $25 million — the amount that was budgeted, although subsequently reduced, for the current fiscal year — Kean said he was willing to reduce his budget request by the 10% requested by Gov. Charles W. Turnbull.
But then Kean pleaded for a separate $2.2 million earmarked for merit increases for his faculty.
UVI professors have not been given salary increases in eight years. However, last year the Legislature allocated funding for a one-time merit bonus.
Kean's comments came in response to a question from Sen. Anne Golden as to what university officials were doing to reduce the attrition rate among faculty members on the St. Croix campus.
"Candidly speaking, I don't know that there is anything we can do, other than to increase salaries for faculty, in order to keep them at the university," Kean said. Compounding the problem of departures, he said, is "that when they leave, we cannot hire faculty members with commensurate qualifications with our salaries. It's almost impossible."
The St. Croix campus also was the focus of a controversy pushed to the forefront in recent days by Sen. Adelbert Bryan. In a letter Bryan sent to Kean and released to the media, the senator asked whether the St. Croix campus academic dean, Dr. Roderick Moorehead, had been reorganized out of a job.
A UVI administrative reorganization plan approved by the board of trustees a week ago eliminated the positions of academic dean on both campuses, as well as that of vice president for academic affairs, the officer to whom the deans reported. Instead, each campus will have a chancellor, with increased autonomy. The two chancellors will report to a university provost, a new position.
The university already has announced that the St. Thomas dean, Dr. Maxine Nunez, will go on leave for the fall semester, then return to teaching in the spring. An interim chancellor for St. Croix has been named, but there has been no word from UVI about Moorehead's future.
Sen. Lorraine Berry asked Kean outright what was to become of Moorehead. Kean said he and Moorehead met on Tuesday but declined to give any details of the discussion on grounds of confidentiality.
According to UVI officials, the restructuring will result in a savings of $70,000. In approving the plan, the board of trustees specified that it could not entail any added costs.
Kean also said the portion of the total government budget that UVI receives is 4 percent, far below what many other public universities receive; by law, 9 percent of Puerto Rico's budget goes to its public university.
In other testimony, Kean called for the university to have a seat on the Industrial Development Commission. He cited the need for an interface between industries proposing to locate in the territory and the careers for which UVI prepares its students, as well as the potential for university support from such corporate entities.
UVI and the Port Authority were the last two semi-autonomous agencies to defend their budget requests before the Finance
Committee. Budget hearings are now recessed until Aug. 24 while Office of Management and Budget and Department of Finance officials rework their formal presentation of the administration budget.
Last week, the Finance Committee granted the administration's request for an extension after the Senate auditors said Government House revenue projections were inflated by $200 million.

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