March 2005 (v7 i5)
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UT System to use surplus funds for emergencies
Extra $46 million set aside for potential volcano relief, this and that
by Ryan B. Martinez, Associate Editor

"We get paid to witness the passage of time."
AUSTIN — UT System officials announced last week that $46 million of a projected $115 million surplus will go to an "emergency fund" that would buffer against a range of possible problems, such as, say, a volcanic eruption in Central Texas.

Many critics disapprove of the emergency fund's indefinite nature, suggesting instead that the money should be used to lower tuition costs. UT System officials disagree.

"Listen, there are contingencies that you just need to prepare for," said UT System Chancellor Mark Yudof. "For instance, what if the geological calm of the North American central plains has actually been masking upper-mantle convection, which will soon come to a head through the instantaneous formation of a hotspot volcano — blasting through the surface and raining magma and ash over much of Harris County, including System facilities?"

He continued: "While our geology departments don't have the research funds to verify my hunch, I'm still not going to take my chances. Trust me — we will need that emergency fund to help rebuild."

In addition to serving as backup for cataclysmic emergencies, the fund will also take care of smaller "unforeseen needs" encountered by any of the nine universities in the System.

Teresa Sullivan, another UT System official, explained in more specific terms what those needs could be: "Oh, y'know, this and that."

Asked which areas of university administration required "this and that," Sullivan replied: "Here and there."

Despite Sullivan's straightforward statements, the System has raised criticism from state representatives and student watchdog groups. David Forbis, government senior and member of UT Gaze, thinks the emergency fund is a ploy to keep the public from grasping how the Board of Regents is mishandling state funds.

"It's just the latest blunder in a long history of UT System blunders," Forbis said. "I bet they plan on spending most of the money drafting resolutions on how they should spend the money."

When faced with the accusation, Sullivan appeared to jot the idea down on a notebook. Yudof, on the other hand, merely replied: "Vague threats call for vague measures." He refused to clarify his comments.
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