“Painful cuts” lead to about 80 layoffs at SIU: Interim chancellor says cuts were necessary to evolve as an institution

Submitted by Carbondale Times on

Dustin
Duncan
 
Weekend Times

Nearly 80 individuals will be without a job by July 1 and potentially more in the coming weeks as Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell released a memo to the Southern Illinois University Carbondale campus Wednesday announcing his plan to deal with cuts called for by SIU President Randy Dunn in March.
    “[T]he provost, vice chancellors and others have been working diligently to plan for a permanent reduction of $19 million in state budgets effective July 1,” Colwell wrote. “In addition, they are working to account for the first of 10 annual payments to reimburse funds spent this year that we did not receive due to the ongoing state budget impasse.”
     Colwell wrote that the university built much of its permanent reductions on vacant positions in an attempt to avoid layoffs, but “unfortunately,” layoffs and the non-renewal of some contracts are unavoidable. He said the $19 million reduction is based on anticipated state appropriation and conservative enrollment estimates for fall.
    “Decisions affecting members of our community are deeply painful to all of us,” Colwell wrote. “We will do all we can to assist those employees who are affected.”
    He said the university anticipates 51 civil service layoffs, although Colwell wrote it is likely about 100 employees will receive notification they may be affected in the bumping process.
     “Per the contract, individuals with seniority can “bump” into the position of someone in the same classification with less seniority. Sometimes one layoff can lead to several bumps along the line,” SIU spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith wrote in an email to the Times.
    Also, Colwell wrote the appointment of two administrative professional staff are not being renewed, and some AP staff are being moved to term appointments. Additionally, the appointments of 24 non-tenure track faculty members will not be renewed. Also, two more non-tenure track faulty members received layoff notices. Colwell said the university anticipates the number could grow as its academic leadership works to balance its budgetary challenges and instructional needs for the fall semester.
    Goldsmith said in 2016, the university has 3,074 faculty and staff, not including graduate and undergraduate assistants.
“Overall, we will have about 400 fewer positions since the last year we received a state appropriation,” she said.
    As for graduate assistantships, Colwell said the university doesn’t know what the impact will be for those students, because course needs are still being identified. He said since there was a reduction of assistantships made already in the current fiscal year, he didn’t call for reductions as part of this round of cuts.
    There is an anticipation a number of other positions will become vacant due to the retirements or resignations, and many of those will not be filled, Colwell said. Those positions would be in additional to the about 158 vacant positions not being filled.
    He estimates there would also be a loss of about 200 student workers out of 3,700 total. The chancellor said there is an anticipated savings of $1 million from this reduction.
    “Overall, we will be a different university with the loss of these colleagues and positions, but I remain confident that we can continue to fulfill our mission on behalf of our students,” Colwell said.
    Other impacts outlined by Colwell include reduced hours at the library and IT help desk, and a reduced work day from eight hours to seven and half hours, which will affect the salaries of some employees.
    As for unrestricted funds used in the previous fiscal year, Colwell laid out a plan for paying those funds back. He said the university needed to identify an additional $8.3 million to $11 million in the first year of a 10-year repayment plan. He said the exact amount will depend on actual spending and whether the state passes a stopgap budget before the end of the fiscal year, which is June 30.
    Goldsmith said the state doesn’t technically owe the university anything. However, in the past, the university has received an annual state appropriation that may have varied from year to year.   
    “We have not received a regular appropriation for the last two years, although there have been two “stopgap” payments that were applied to the last fiscal year,” she said. “The last time we had a state appropriation, in FY15, it was about $104 million.”
    She said the total savings from permanent cuts is $19 million, on top of the $21 million already cut this year.
    Colwell said for the first year in the repayment plan, the university will cover $4 million central allocation of distance education and summer semester tuition and fund budgeted, but not spent on small capital projects. Additionally, the university has assigned a number to areas of the university to chip in to paying back the funds. Some of the largest numbers are expected from academic affairs at $1,895,380, administration and finance — $266,810 and campus-wide services — $249,385.
    “These reductions do not fully reflect other steps we must take to realign our institution for a new era,” Colwell wrote. “Not only will they yield savings over time, but they are necessary if we are to continue to evolve as an institution and fulfill our mission.”
     In closing, Colwell said many of the students and faculty have shared thoughts about the reduction process and their voices were heard.
    “Please know that your voices have been heard. While perspectives differ and we cannot follow every request or recommendation, your feedback was important to the process.
    “These reductions and future steps are necessary to realign SIU for the future,” he said. “The shared pain will lead to shared progress and our long-term success. I value your commitment.”
    Goldsmith said the goal in the cuts was everything possible to minimize the impact to academic programs and student services.
“We will continue to offer a wide range of courses in the fall,” she said. “As the chancellor’s message indicates toward the end, under Looking Forward, we will still need to look at reorganization, which might include changes in the college structure. So there is still work to be done.”  
In that section of the memo, Colwell says he anticipates he will have a plan to share with the campus community and the SIU Board of Trustees in July.
    The memo can be read on the SIU chancellor’s page on the SIU website (http://chancellor.siu.edu/messages.)