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Departments seek alternatives to fund speakers

Teresa Fralish | Monday, October 13, 2003

In spite of significant budget cuts, Notre Dame organizations have still been successful in bringing prominent speakers to campus this semester by turning to other options, such as co-sponsorship or grants, to fund talks from well-known individuals.

As a result of the decrease in the endowment and the drop in the economy, University officials made cuts to department and institute funding across the board last year. From 2001 to 2002, the endowment fell from $2.85 to $2.6 million, prompting University officials to cut the academic budget by 7 percent.

Despite these decreases in funding, University departments have secured contracts from a number of well-known individuals, including Nobel laureate Seamus Heaney, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo and South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Frank McCourt, author of the Pulitzer prize-winning book “Angela’s Ashes”, is scheduled to speak at Notre Dame this week.

John Cavadini, director of the Institute for Church Life, which sponsored the talk by Obasanjo, said his institute pursued a variety of options to fund the speech. “This conference was completely funded by grants from internal and external units at the University,” he said.

Other University institutes said carefully planned strategies were needed to bring prominent speakers to campus. Hal Culbertson, associate director of the Kroc Institute, which helped bring Tutu to Notre Dame, said the Institute began organizing far in advance.

“The conference was part of a research project,” Culbertson said. “We’re able to do that through careful planning. Decisions were made … at least a year ago.”

Culbertson declined to discuss how significant the budget cuts were for the Kroc Institute, but said the budget did shrink due to the drop in the endowment.

According to Cavadini, the Institute for Church Life saw a definite decrease in funding for this year, because the Institute’s resources are closely tied to the University endowment. “If the endowment goes down we have to make cuts,” Cavadini said. “Our income goes down immediately.”

However, the Institute funded the talk by Obasanjo and has plans to bring at least two other scholars to speak on campus this semester, according to Cavadini. “You just focus more,” he said.

Cavadini said he believed the Institute for Church Life could continue to sponsor a similar number of talks to previous years by focusing on advance planning and co-sponsorship between University departments.