The UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine will face a $2.6 million loss for the 2009-2010 school year. This funding gap, both a product of the state budget and a weakened veterinary services market, has left the school’s Academic Council little choice but to cancel programs, eliminate positions and forestall expansion – cuts that have the potential to significantly shake the foundation of the school.
“Many faculty members have always said that they originally came to Davis because it was the best veterinary school in the country, maybe even the world,” said Doreen Franke, Executive Assistant Dean of Administration. “Sadly, because of the budget cuts, that feeling just may not be the same anymore.”
During the 2008-2009 academic school year, $1.2 million was also cut from the school’s $38 million state budget, in addition to a $900,000 deficit due to a decrease in clinical income at the William R. Pritchard Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital, according to a budget address sent to faculty and staff.
The Academic Council’s main priority is to preserve the school’s core academic courses, Franke said. But that also means other difficult cuts were made instead.
To cover the shortfall, the school eliminated the Veterinary Graduate Academic Program, VGAP, a $600,000 program that provided scholarships to deserving students, the Pet Loss Support Hotline, the Office of Public Programs for alumni and practitioner outreach, one branch of the California Animal Health and Food Safety Laboratory System and 111 staff positions through both layoffs and attrition.
“It’s really unfortunate that we can’t support these programs,” Franke said. “But we simply can’t afford them.”
According to Bruno Chomel, professor of population health and reproduction, the school cannot provide the same quality of service anymore – lost positions are not being replaced due to a hiring freeze on new faculty, which has resulted in gaps in instruction. Also, the school will not be able to expand its labs to include top security research, like in the area of vector born diseases.
“It’s a disaster,” Chomel said. “Not only do these cuts affect [the faculty], they are affecting our students the most.”
In 2007, US News and World Report ranked UC Davis second among all the veterinary medicine schools in the country. Chomel believes this is due to the school’s staff, who continues to support the program through great research and teaching.
But these are qualities that may not support the program forever.
“We are among the top ranked programs in the world for a reason,” Chomel said. “But if the budget keeps requiring cuts and keeps requiring cuts, we are not going to be the best anymore.”
– David Lavine