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Hiring Freeze Discussed With Tri-Council Representatives

By Jody Record, Campus Journal Editor
June 11, 2008

President Mark Huddleston and Dick Cannon, vice president of finance and administration, met with representatives of the PAT, OS and Extension Educator councils in May to discuss the recently implemented hiring freeze aimed at offsetting an $8.2 million budget deficit.

The freeze, enacted on May 8, leaves vacant more than 100 existing open positions and an additional 75 created by the separation incentive program offered to employees in April. To date, 71 requests for waivers to the hiring freeze have been submitted; 35 have been approved.

“My main concern is to avoid laying people off or doing anything that would be detrimental to the university,” Huddleston said of the freeze.

During the meeting with the tri-council representatives, Huddleston outlined the criteria for granting an exception to filling some job openings. The five issues taken into consideration include whether a position is critical to life, safety or health; whether there could be legal ramifications in not filling it, i.e., if a written job offer had been extended; whether professional certification or licensing would be in jeopardy if a position went unfilled; whether more revenue would be lost through the vacancy; and whether leaving a position unfilled would impact students being able to graduate.

The $8 million deficit, according to Cannon, is due to the following expenses: an estimated $1 million loss in sponsored research funding; the need for an additional $1 million in financial aid; $2.2 million in salary and health insurance increases; and $4 million in the increased cost of natural gas.

“State revenue is flat; research revenue has flattened out. The Foundation has been in transition so the yield is a little flat, and there are limits on how much we can increase tuition,” Cannon said, explaining the need to save $2-plus million through the hiring freeze.

While the move has helped create a balanced budget, Huddleston noted that isn’t enough.

“We need a surplus,” he said.

Moreover, the proportion of out-of-state students to in-state students needs to be studied, he said, noting that the current state appropriation does not come even close to bridging the gap between in-state tuition and the cost of instruction for in-state students.

Huddleston also addressed two strategies that could offset future escalating costs, telecommuting and distance learning.

“ We have to get a lot more aggressive,” Huddleston said of distance education, which he said is not a near-term solution but one that would help 10 years down the road.

Telecommuting, on the other hand, could prove to be a more near-term solution, Cannon said, adding the concept will be explored.

“We need to step back and be open to telecommuting,” Cannon said.

Huddleston also spoke of the need to maximize university resources through offering more night, after 2 p.m. and Friday classes.

“I think we could make much, much better use of our space,” Huddleston said. “I think we need to be more aggressive.”



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