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Faculty, staff pitch in by taking cuts

BY TESSA MCLEAN | FEBRUARY 24, 2009 7:29 AM

UI faculty and staff would be willing to take temporary pay cuts in order to save the jobs of their colleagues, UI Provost Wallace Loh said.

“It’s the Iowa way,” Loh said. “People realize that this is really the worst financial and economic crisis since the Great Depression and people feel that we should all sacrifice a little to help each other.”

No final decisions have been made on how the UI would cut its budget under Gov. Chet Culver’s proposed 6.5 percent reduction. If Culver’s state budget is approved in April, the UI could face a loss of $26 million in appropriations.

Five to six working groups have been created, each assigned to brainstorm savings options in different areas — including energy and utilities, construction projects, personnel issues, and janitorial services. The groups will compile their ideas and sit down with UI President Sally Mason in as soon as 30 days, Loh said.

On the academic side, each of the UI’s 11 colleges have received reduction targets and are asked to start planning and discussing budget cut scenarios.

Loh said his top priority with the budget cuts is to maintain the UI’s $52 million financial aid budget.
He also said he hopes programs affected by summer flooding can avoid reductions, though those programs will still have to endure small cuts if the reductions are extensive.

Meanwhile, some university programs could be downsized or eventually phased out, with the money being allocated to support stronger programs.

“A university is an organic unit that is always growing and evolving, and we want to put money into programs that are top-notch,” Loh said. “At the end of this process, we will be leaner, but stronger.”

Linda Maxson, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences dean, said regular meetings with department heads to discuss scenarios for cuts have been important in gathering input on how to deal with a sliced budget.

Maxson added the meetings have included brainstorming on how to cut costs, even at the most basic levels. She said one suggestion discussed was cutting down on visitors to the university during football weekends due to the high expense of hotels.

The delay or freeze in around 24 job candidate searches in the liberal-arts school will also aid in saving money.

But the search for some positions, such as the School of Journalism and Mass Communication director and faculty members in the chemistry and biology departments, will not be halted.

“Our college is affected differently than other colleges because we do so much of the instruction, and that is one of the core missions of the university,” Maxson said. “That is why we coined this term ‘porous hiring freeze’ so we could keep doing some.”

At Iowa State University, more than 200 employees have volunteered to take unpaid leave, or furloughs, to make up for budget shortfalls in the current fiscal year, UI Faculty Senate President and psychology professor Michael O’Hara said. The UI will not need to implement any furloughs this fiscal year, he said, though it could be a possibility in the next fiscal year.

“It’s a nice gesture on their part, and I applaud them,” O’Hara said. “But if we are going to have a program like that, it should be mandatory with no implicit coercion into something that is supposed to be voluntary.”

O’Hara is also part of one of the working groups discussing cutting UI operations costs.

“Given the magnitude of the cuts we have to do things that are painful, and people have to understand that,” O’Hara said. “It has to be a shared sacrifice.”

Loh said the new UI budget website — created Feb. 11 to keep the UI community informed — has been helpful in soliciting participation and feedback. As of last week, the website had received over 120 suggestions, some of which he said were very good. UI officials plan to post the best suggestions.

“It is a very open and transparent process,” Loh said. “People are saying they want to work together and support the university.”


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