Tech: Research to take biggest hit

HOUGHTON – Government gridlock has paved the way for sequestration, automatic federal spending cuts, to start to take their toll, and Michigan Technological University administrators discussed the impact of those cuts during Thursday’s regular Board of Control meeting.

Vice President for Research Dave Reed said sponsored research activities will take the biggest hit since three-quarters of funding for those activities comes from the federal government. Solicitation on new awards could be delayed and the success rate lowered.

“Most of the direct federal funding to Tech that will be impacted is through the sponsored programs area,” he said during a presentation to the board. “This is going to be painful.”

Research agencies will take reductions of a little more than 5 percent, to be implemented in the last six months of the federal fiscal year, which ends in September.

Non-competitive continuing awards with carryover may be reduced, and Reed estimated the university’s general fund could be impacted by about $300,000 by October if sequestration is fully implemented.

Reed gave additional research updates during the meeting as well, noting that through the first six months of Tech’s fiscal year (through the end of December), awards are up almost 14 percent. While expenditures are down 5 percent from last year, it’s hard to project them over the entire fiscal year since almost a third of research expenditures take place in May and June.

Reed also said an update will be coming soon to Tech’s research crowdfunding site,, and further social media marketing efforts are being implemented – crowd first, then funding being the emphasis.

In addition to the new Tech hockey video scoreboard purchase approved Thursday, as detailed in another article, the board of control:

approved a new concentration in business analytics, within the Bachelor of Science in Mathematics programs.

approved a resolution to refinance bond issues from 2006 and 2008 at a lower interest rate.

approved submission of a grant application to the Michigan Coastal Management Program.

granted emeritus rank to Peg Gale, retired dean of the School of Forest Resources and Environmental Science, and Martha Sloan, retired professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering.

recognized four employees for more than 35 years of service to Tech: Martha Sloan (43 years), Martin Jurgensen (42 years), Barbara Ruotsala (37 years) and Thomas Grimm (36 years).

heard a report from Michigan Tech Fund Chair George Butvilas the Generations of Discovery Capital Campaign has reached $195,328,844 as of Feb. 7. The campaign ends in June with a goal of $200 million. No further public progress updates will be given until the goal is reached. Butvilas also noted the $81 million level of the university endowment is the highest it’s been in the last 16 years.

recognized Tech basketball players Ben Stelzer and T.J. Brown for their buzzer-beating play last week against Lake Superior State, a play that landed on Sportscenter’s top 10 plays.

“There’s nobody who was at that game that won’t remember that 50 years from now,” Tech president Glenn Mroz said.

heard an update from BOC Finance Committee Chair Tom Baldini noting discussions have begun on the fiscal year 2014 budget, including a proposed 2.8 percent increase in state appropriations, though it has not been debated or voted on by the state legislature.

He also said the finance committee supports a move to plateau tuition (instead of charging per credit), a move expected to be voted on at a future board of control meeting and implemented by this fall.

heard reports from University Senate President Bill Bulleit (acknowledging “significant improvements” in collaboration between the board and senate), Undergraduate Student Government President Donnie Palmer (replaced Eli Karttunen mid-year, noted discussion continues about parking problems), Graduate Student Government President Kevin Cassell (raised concern about the rate of increase in rental rates at Daniell Heights apartments), Provost Max Seel (regarding the impact of technological advancements in the classroom) and Chief Financial Officer Dan Greenlee (stating the large fall graduation class caused a slight shortfall in tuition income for the spring semester; university cash flow is still in good shape, averaging $19.5 million throughout the year).

The full Board of Control agenda and minutes can be found at