Part 3: Despite guaranteed funding, SIAS budget faces further complications

Over winter break, Dean Anne Bartlett of the School for Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences confirmed that SIAS would get its full budget of $13.69 million. Now, both the SIAS Faculty Council and Chancellor Mark Pagano have issued a request for an external audit into understanding the events surrounding the SIAS budget. 

The call for the audit comes in order to understand why Bartlett received a budget for SIAS different from the one that was approved by the chancellor’s administration in May of 2019, and to understand where there was miscommunication through the process..

Ellen Moore, who heads the SIAS Faculty Council, requested that the UW’s Internal Audit Department take a look into what led up to the miscommunication which then influenced Bartlett’s decision to cut certain core SIAS classes, as well as the aftermath of the effect of the cuts. Pagano also asked Cordova’s office to investigate what happened — separate from Moore and the SIAS Faculty Council’s request — officially turning the process into a co-requested management review.

For SIAS, Moore laid out the three goals the SIAS faculty hopes to achieve from the audit.

“So far as Director Cordova acknowledged, we have three objectives,” Moore said. “Who knew what and when — and that really had to do with who knew what about the budget and when. Second … do we have a sound and transparent budget process at UW Tacoma. Then, the third that Executive Director Cordova had identified in what we were saying, was that we wanted a better understanding of the budget information flow from the chancellor to the dean to the faculty.”

Similarly, Pagano stated that through the UW Internal Audit Department’s investigation, any weaknesses within the internal communications processes will be identified and fixed. Pagano also hopes that the audit can help to regain the trust of faculty and students.

“Another thing that I hope … is that it clarifies that we weren’t up to anything nefarious,” Pagano said.  “Jill [Purdy] worked so hard on behalf of the academic areas to keep them from suffering from any budget reductions from the loss of enrollment.”

The calls for the official UW auditing department to look into what happened comes after UWT conducted its own internal investigation, which included Pagano, Bartlett, Executive Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Jill Purdy and Executive Vice Chancellor of Finance and Administration Tye Minckler. It was through this internal review that SIAS was assured of its full budget.

The problems all seem to start when the final budgets of the different schools at UW Tacoma were finalized for the 2020 fiscal year in May of 2019. SIAS, the biggest school in terms of students, as well as yearly allocated budget, had an approved initial budget of $12.5 million. 

However, according to the records which Bartlett received in July, the school was given $11.7 million. By Aug. 1, that number had increased to $12.2 million, but still short of its original allotment. 

It was in mid-August when Bartlett made the call to cut classes for the year. In all, 13 classes which were at medium-to-high capacity were cut, and roughly 300 students were affected by said cuts, according to an email sent by Pagano to faculty and staff on Jan. 10.

“One more thing that I have been encouraged by is how … Student Affairs and Academic Affairs have really stepped up and worked together to work with each student that was affected by this,” Pagano said. “Our academic advisors have done a yeoman’s task in working with the students to try to seek out and find every student. They did an analysis to see what students look like were affected and contacted them. There is a lot of work going to serve the students while we all argue about who said what. At least those people are being served.”

At the current moment, it is unknown how long Cordova and his department will take into this management request before a report and recommendation will be made.



May 20 – All UWT academic schools have their budget requests approved or denied.

June 27 – School deans receive their budgets.

Aug. 9 – SIAS Dean Anne Bartlett notifies SIAS faculty of budget problems and cuts to classes.

Aug. 24 – Students receive notification emails that courses they signed up for were canceled.

Oct. 7 – Executive Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs Jill Purdy brings to the attention of the Chancellor’s Budget Committee that there have been problems with SIAS’ budget. Chancellor Mark Pagano was not at that meeting due to being out of town.

Oct. 18 – Pagano learns of SIAS budget problems.

Oct 24. – Bartlett asks if Pagano would be open to come to an SIAS meeting during the Chancellor’s October town hall to discuss the summer budget issue. Pagano responds that he would “love to do that.” 

Nov. 20 – SIAS Faculty Chair Ellen Moore sends a letter of concern to Pagano, Purdy and Executive Vice Chancellor of Finance and Budgeting Tye Minckler with near full support of SIAS faculty calling for seven actions which the chancellor should immediately take.

Nov. 25 – Pagano and ASUWT host student town hall where students voice their concerns about cut classes, among other issues.

Dec. 6 – Pagano speaks at SIAS’ faculty meeting, and it is discovered that the budget Bartlett received was less than the one Pagano’s Budget Committee had approved.

Dec. 12 – Pagano, Purdy, Minckler and Bartlett conduct an internal investigation as to how much SIAS received. The conclusion of this investigation is that SIAS would be guaranteed its $13.69 million budget.

Dec. 13 – Pagano sends an email to SIAS faculty stating that SIAS will get its budget of $13.69 million.

Dec. 16 – Moore, Pagano, SIAS Faculty Council Vice Chair Cynthia Howson and Chair of Committee of Chairs Michael Kucher meet to discuss possibilities of an external investigation.

Dec 17 – Moore and Pagano both request a UW Internal Audit review of what happened with the SIAS budget.

Dec. 30 – Bartlett confirms to the Ledger that SIAS will receive its full budget.

Jan. 10, 2020 – Pagano sends an email to all faculty and staff, providing an update into the situation and that there is an audit external to UWT, but internal to the UW, that is taking place.