Statement Regarding Cuts to the Budget of the Mary Couts Burnett Library at TCU

Texas Christian University faculty members are scholar-teachers committed to excellence in student learning, student research, faculty teaching, and faculty research. 

The Mary Couts Burnett Library is the center of the academic endeavor at Texas Christian University. The drastic cuts this year to the library budget compromise the academic mission and excellence of TCU. If continued, these cuts will undermine our efforts and those of our students to attain academic excellence. 

In light of statements made in a town hall meeting by Chancellor Victor Boschini on October 26, 2020, the American Association of University Professors at TCU provides the following clarifications: 

The chancellor’s statement on October 26, 2020, that the library budget is $11 million dollars is no longer true. The figure of $11 million, which includes all salaries, was before March 2020, and the library budget has been cut significantly since then, by more than 30 percent, making the true figure less than $8 million. 

The book/one-time purchase budget (capital funds) was cut by more than 90 percent. A library must add steadily to its collection, or it will fall behind. Cuts to the acquisitions budget will reverberate for the foreseeable future: the fewer books the library acquires, the further TCU will lose ground. 

The subscriptions budget was cut by a third. These losses have a direct impact on undergraduate and graduate teaching as well as faculty research.                      

The faculty has not heard directly from the dean of libraries since the cuts began.Faculty and students must learn by trial and error which subscriptions and databases have been eliminated. 

Members of the AAUP have discussed the library cuts with faculty members across the university, and we find that faculty concerns fall into four categories: 

  1. Transparency

Faculty members believe that they have received incomplete information on the cuts to the library: what has been cut, and by whom and how those decisions were made. Some library liaisons queried their faculties on what to cut in the spring, but little information has been forthcoming.

Faculty members are making “workarounds” for missing materials at present but fear that current fiscal cuts will mean future cuts in materials, which will be even more difficult. 

The dean of libraries, as well as the library liaisons, should be able to communicate directly with the faculty. 

2. Undergraduate teaching

Undergraduate teachers are being affected by library cuts because of the symbiosis between research and teaching. The books needed for faculty research today will affect teaching in the future. 

Books: Faculty members are using their own money to purchase books for students in some cases, especially low-income students who had previously relied on the library for access to course materials.  

Databases: 

  • Primary source sets enable students to have unfiltered access to documents of the past. They suffer from this when these databases are eliminated. 
  • Video streaming services are used extensively in some disciplines. The future of those services is unclear. 
  • Students have had to pay for streaming services in multiple classes to access materials. It also poses a problem to international students, who do not have the same services or access to the same materials (and every market is different).

Journals: Cancellations of academic journals increase dependence on interlibrary loan. 

This increased reliance negatively affects the ability of interlibrary loan to deliver materials in a timely way. Further, it may increase the cost of interlibrary loans, and there may be materials that TCU is unable to borrow. 

Faculty members note the irony of cutting electronic sources in this time of pandemic, when they are relying on them heavily, when teaching excellence in digital realms is crucial, and when they are unable to travel for research. 

3. Graduate teaching

Graduate students are negatively affected by cancellation of journals and lack of funds to purchase books and primary document sets.

4. Faculty research

Faculty research suffers from cuts to books and databases. Small departments have been hit the hardest. 

Faculty members are using their own money to buy books that ordinarily would be part of the library. Some are even donating those books to the library.

Some faculty members are using the library resources from their undergraduate institutions.

Slower library processes slow faculty research. 

THEREFORE, we, the members of the American Association of University Professors at Texas Christian University, ask that the university acknowledge the extent of the cuts to the library and the negative impacts thereof; empower the dean of libraries and the library liaisons to communicate openly and directly with the faculty; and restore the cuts to the library budget as soon as possible. 

Published by Chip Stewart

Professor of Journalism at Texas Christian University. J.D. (University of Texas), LL.M. (University of Missouri), Ph.D. (University of Missouri). Former head of the Law & Policy Division at AEJMC. Founding editor of Community Journalism. Author of "Media Law Through Science Fiction: Do Androids Dream of Electric Free Speech?" (Routledge, 2020); co-author of "The Law of Public Communication" (11th ed., Routledge, 2020); editor of "Social Media and the Law" (2nd ed., Routledge, 2017).

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