Is UNH Using Their Letterhead To Play Politics?

A recent letter from UNH President Mark W. Huddleston, emailed to  persons associated with UNH, appears to be asking recipients to pressure (maybe engage and encourage is a better term) the New Hampshire legislature into restoring budget cuts made last session to the University system.

I have no issue with “Huddleston the activist” doing that on his own time, but Politicking on State University Letterhead?

That’s a no no.

The other problem is that Huddleston admits the University effectively managed the last cut.   And no offense intended, but having looked at the course option, I think there is room for more trimming.  There are areas of study at UNH with no practical application in a booming economy.  To continue to fund them in this economy is simply ridiculous.

There is one part of the letter that I found very pleasing.  President Huddlesotn quotes some anonymous influential leader in the legislature who is reported to have said things I have said on these pages myself.

From Huddleston:

Recently, an influential leader in the NH Legislature stated that he may seek additional cuts to our funding in the next biennium. He commented that UNH is “inefficient and unproductive” and that “by throwing more money at it, we are just going to increase the problem.” He remarked that the legislature’s near 50% funding cut was “a signal to UNH and to the university system as a whole that it can’t go on.” He asserted that our faculty teach only eight to 10 hours a week and then take long sabbaticals.

I made most of the same points here when I asked, when can we cut the other 50%?

Quick question.  Is Ed ‘Flash’ Larkin still on the UNH payroll?  That’s probably half a million wasted on nothing.  And I guess you guys never took my funding suggestion either.  And I have to ask…any more like him collecting a paycheck that we don’t know about?

And what about this?  The free market and university supporters have ponied up 77% more in private donations to the University of New Hampshire this year than last year.  Look likes UNH, through enthusiastic fundraising efforts, has managed to net themselves $22.5 Million this year, without having to use the police state (or the boo hoo towel) to extort taxpayers for the money.

So you see.  You just need to work a little harder.  You can still educate kids, and add to the local economy, and do all those good things you do with Queer Studies, Women’s studies, filtering Federal dollars into the hands of prominent New Hampshire Democrats and Obama supporters like Gary Hirschberg, and lets not forget objecting to giving up that out of state tuition money for UNH students who pay out of state tuition rates but whom you all insist should be able to vote as if they were living in New Hampshire.

Huddleston spends no small amount of time in his letter selling the greater good of UNH, while simultaneously suggesting that others will mislead for political advantage.  The problem here is that Huddleston is misleading you for political advantage.  No one, to my knowledge, has ever suggested that UNH or any part of the state system does no good. Nor have we suggested we do not need or want it.   We are suggesting that it can and should learn to do more with less taxpayer support.

Our nation is built on private interests empowering individuals to do good by providing them work, wages, and the means to invest those dollars as they see fit.  The university is more than welcome to convince as many of those people as it must to educate themselves and their kids there; to donate some of their wages freely to its worthy research or causes.  And you are clearly more than capable of that.  But arguing that the University is entitled to empower state government to extort money from its citizens with its policing powers is not a flattering use of University letterhead.

If UNH is such a boon it should be able to be that and more on its own.  If it can’t then it’s nothing more than a hole we keep shoveling money in to.

So are you afraid that UNH cannot compete for students unless it is propped up with tax payer bailouts?  That suggests that whatever good UNH does could be done better.  That it is far from competitive in the education marketplace.  That it may be pursuing areas of study and research that do not serve the needs of New Hampshire and the nation at large.   That it produces “graduates” with degrees that have no value in the real world.  It also suggests that as long as taxpayers are bailing out UNH it can afford to do worse and that it is willing to try.

UNH Letter transcribed below – received via email. Letter head screen capped from the same email.



UNH letterhead

Dear Friend xxxxxxxxxxx,

I hope this finds you well and enjoying the end of a great summer. While you are used to hearing from me about the many accomplishments of University of New Hampshire students and faculty-and about how their work helps our neighbors in New Hampshire and beyond-today I am alerting you to an issue of deep concern and requesting your help to keep UNH strong.

Yesterday, the Board of Trustees-which officially determines our state appropriation request and tuition levels-voted in support of asking lawmakers to restore the 2011 budget cut of 49% in exchange for UNH providing more financial aid and freezing tuition for New Hampshire students for two years. This is a position that 71% of New Hampshire adults support, according to a recent poll from the UNH Survey Center. I hope you will join me in making sure our elected officials and those seeking to serve understand the need to prioritize funding for UNH and public higher education.

In the last legislative session, public funding for in-state students at New Hampshire colleges and universities suffered the largest cut in our state’s history, indeed in our nation’s history. At the University of New Hampshire, our appropriation from the state has been reduced to just 6% of our operating budget. New Hampshire was already last in the nation in per capita funding for public higher education.

At UNH, we recognize that these are tough economic times, but we also know how essential it is to provide world-class education to our students. We do so at the most affordable price possible. After the recent budget cut, we instituted new cost-saving measures, including layoffs, early retirement incentives, and a hiring freeze, to minimize the impact of the lost funding on the quality of our educational experience. In all, we absorbed more than 8O% of the loss through administrative savings. Even so, we were forced to raise in-state tuition to make up for the portion we could not absorb. Although the tuition increase was kept to a minimum, I know that every time tuition goes up, it hurts New Hampshire families and makes their children’s futures less secure. It is essential to understand that, in good times and bad, the funding we receive from the legislature has a direct impact on tuition levels.

With the fall election season upon us and with the next state budget starting to be developed in January, we are preparing next year’s appropriation request. Recently, an influential leader in the NH Legislature stated that he may seek additional cuts to our funding in the next biennium. He commented that UNH is “inefficient and unproductive” and that “by throwing more money at it, we are just going to increase the problem.” He remarked that the legislature’s near 50% funding cut was “a signal to UNH and to the university system as a whole that it can’t go on.” He asserted that our faculty teach only eight to 10 hours a week and then take long sabbaticals.

I am very proud of the way we managed the 49% cut from the state while minimizing tuition increases. We are good, frugal Yankees at UNH, very fiscally responsible with every dollar. In fact, our cost per credit hour I 7O% of the average of our peer institutions.

I am also very proud of the excellent work our faculty do. UNH faculty put in long, hard hours teaching courses, working shoulder-to-shoulder with our students on research projects, and lending their knowledge and expertise to businesses, nonprofits and communities throughout the state. Last week I stood on the deck of a home overlooking Lake Winnipesaukee and listened intently to two members of our faculty, Jim Haney, professor of Biological Sciences, and Jeff Schloss, a water resources specialist for Cooperative Extension, and two of their research students, speak to a group of
Homeowners about their path-breaking work monitoring the quality of New Hampshire lakes and analyzing the growth of toxic bacterial blooms. These bacterial blooms, even in our freshest and cleanest lakes, are potentially serious threats to public health. Given the hundreds of thousands of New Hampshire residents and tourists who enjoy our lakes and rivers, this kind of cutting-edge research is crucial to our well-being. It is staggering to imagine that any responsible public official would be dismissive of this sort of work.

Indeed, what is most troubling about the legislator’s comments and the legislature’s decision to cut funding is that they so misrepresent and underappreciate the impact of New Hampshire’s public colleges and universities. UNH and its sister institutions keep our state’s economy strong and its people healthy. A recently released economic impact study shows UNH contributes $1.4 billion to the state’s economy each year through workforce development, direct expenditures, and employment. That’s an extraordinary return on the state’s investment of less than $40 million! In addition, UNH works actively to promote commercialization of intellectual property and to support entrepreneurial activity in the state.

I need your help in setting the record straight. If you want to keep UNH strong and help make UNH as affordable as possible for New Hampshire families, I ask you to join me in conversation with our elected officials. If you believe as I do that we must make a commitment to restore funding to 2010 levels for UNH, I ask you to let your voice be heard. Whether it is writing to your local papers, asking those who want to represent you in Concord to lead on this important issue, or emailing your friends and neighbors, you can help support our students and their families struggling to produce the next generation of leaders. Our quality of life and economy depend on your involvement. I encourage you to review a fact sheet and some highlights that are helpful in telling our story; you can find them by clicking here. You can join this effort and help keep UNH strong by signing up here.

I understand that in any election season, the truth may be stretched by candidates and pundits to create a tactical political advantage. But the truth about UNH is too important-to you, your family, and the entire State of New Hampshire-to allow misstatements and mischaracterizations to go unchallenged. We simply cannot ignore the financial hardships that reduced state support for education impose on New Hampshire families – or the impact of today’s misguided decisions on tomorrow’s economy.

We need your help in the next few months in spreading the word about the invaluable contributions UNH makes, day in and day out, to our state and its future. Join me in engaging our state’s leaders in this important conversation. Keep UNH strong. Keep New Hampshire strong.

In the coming weeks and months, I will continue to reach out to you to share news of the great work happening on our campuses and to seek your help as advocates for the University of New Hampshire.

Thank you for your support.


Mark W. Huddleston


PS: Please join this effort and help keep UNH strong by signing up here. (link removed)