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Governor Robert Casey's proposed cuts in University funding would cripple the Veterinary School's already-stretched abilities to teach and perform research, students and faculty said last night. Faculty and students added Casey is practicing "political terrorism" -- using the Vet School, as well as other colleges and universities, as a pawn in a political struggle over higher-education funding. In his budget proposal last week, Casey requested that the state legislature cut the University's funding almost in half, from $37.6 million to $19 million. Hardest hit by the cuts would be the Vet School, which gets 40 percent funding from the state. The Vet School's allotment would be slashed from $8 million to $5.6 million, and three other programs related to the Vet School would be cut as well. "The magnitude of the [proposed] cuts is so devastating to get everyone's attention," Vet School Dean Edwin Andrews said last week. "If the cuts would stay, the school wouldn't be here in five years." Were Casey's recommendations to pass the legislature, Andrews added, the school could fire all 100 faculty members and still not close the gap caused by the cut. Students said last night Casey's proposal would continue a trend over the last few years in which the Vet School's quality has decreased due to financial constraints. Third-year Vet School student Melanie Newman said yesterday the Vet School already suffers from financial limitations -- especially in the laboratory. "Professors have advised us to be thrifty with supplies," Newman said yesterday. "The quality of education has been affected since I've been at school." Vet School financial problems in the past have already lessened the scope of a University Vet School education, third-year student Douglas Fraser said yesterday. As an example, he pointed to the axing of an exotic animals clinic the school used to run. "I think it's something that has been observed over the past three years," Fraser said. "[There are] limited opportunities. If you are interested in some programs, you're at a disadvantage." Andrews also said the cuts were particularly threatening because of the school's "lean" financial situation. The school is still recovering from a $537,000 cut in this fiscal year's state appropriation. Due to an estimated $1 billion shortfall in this year's budget, Casey cut the University's state funding for this school year by 3.5 percent last month. Because of the cut, Andrews said, the school had to lay off new faculty and ask the University for financial support. During his budget address last Wednesday, Casey also proposed cutting the school's New Bolton Center's state funding from $3.9 million to $1.5 million and proposed a 57 percent reduction in funding for both food and animal clinics and for the Center for Animal Health and Productivity. Students say cuts to the New Bolton program will limit students' opportunities to do field service -- going to farms at a farmers' request and treating farm animals. Though Casey's proposals are "short-sighted," the statehouse's decision will be far more important, Microbiology Professor Robert Davies said yesterday. "What really matters is 'what will the final decision be?' " Davies said. "This. . .is a very poor beginning." Staff writer Melissa Fragnito contributed to this story.

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