By Paul A. Anthony, Editor in Chief
Officials have begun deciding this week how to best fill holes left by up to 44 departing faculty and staff who took the university’s early retirement offer.
The number of takers on the offer was close to double what the university had expected, said Phil Schubert, vice president of Finance; 16 are faculty members, and 28 are staff.
“Without a doubt, it’s going to require some additional work,” Schubert said. “We’ll work through what positions need to be filled” and what positions can be left open or filled with part-time workers or senior faculty.
Forty-four represents the number of employees who accepted the plan by Thursday’s deadline, which was offered to all 110 faculty and staff at least 55 years old with 10 years of service at ACU. A federal mandate gives employees seven days to withdraw their acceptance.
Schubert said he did not expect many to withdraw from the plan.
“I don’t have any indication of any changes,” he said, adding that the larger-than-expected acceptance meant “the incentive was well-received and perceived as fair. For that, we’re grateful and glad.”
The university had projected 30 employees would accept the plan, with the faculty-staff ratio being equal.
Dr. Royce Money, university president, announced last week the university planned to cut 25 positions in a number of restructuring moves. About 20 of those employees were eligible for and accepted early retirement, Schubert said.
Six to eight employees who fill positions that could be cut under the budget recommendations were not eligible for early retirement, Schubert said, and the Cabinet is still deciding whom to cut.
Some employees are not yet aware their positions could be eliminated, Schubert added.
Retirees’ tough choices
University officials hope the early retirement program and additional position cuts will save the university more than $580,000 and now are working to determine how much money will be saved after necessary positions vacated by retiring employees are filled.
Among those is Onita Hill, director of the Learning Enhancement Center, which is slated for elimination under the plan to reduce a $5.5 million shortfall announced Jan. 20. She accepted an offer of early retirement Thursday.
“I really didn’t feel like I had much of a choice,” she said. Hill has been working in LEC for 15 years and said because she had been told her job will “probably” be cut, “I didn’t feel like I had all the facts to make a decision.”
Likewise, Ted and Ellen Presley, respectively director of and adviser for the Center for International and Intercultural Education, said they took early retirement because administration officials told them one of their positions could be cut.
“The international student recruiting budget is being cut severely,” Ted Presley said, “and one position is likely going to be cut as well. That leaves us without adequate funds to do our job. Rather than just hang on, we decided to do the early retirement.”
The Presleys have been working with international students since 1986 and developed contacts around the world. They said they didn’t know whether they would be hired back part-time or need to find another full-time job in Abilene.
“We have to look for work,” Ellen Presley said, addressing her husband, “unless you win the lottery.”
Money and members of his Cabinet continue to discuss the list of 60 potential cuts with faculty and staff. Money conducted a second public forum Tuesday, while Provost Dwayne VanRheenen was scheduled to receive questions from the Faculty Senate Wednesday morning.
Senate Chair Joe Cardot, chair of the Department of Communication, said he did not know how the Senate would receive the plan Wednesday.
“Dr. Money did such a good job” explaining the potential cuts Jan. 20, Cardot said, that senators may not have additional questions. “I don’t know; it’s an interesting group.”
Two of the retiring faculty members come from the College of Business Administration. The remaining 14 retiring faculty work in Arts and Sciences. College Dean Colleen Durrington, said last week CAS would “really miss those people who will be retiring.”
“If we have to lose some faculty members,” she said, “this is a better way to do it than to cut some young faculty members we just hired.”
She added the college would probably re-hire some of the retirees as part-time senior faculty, moves that will be determined by the President’s Cabinet.
Schubert said the Cabinet has a self-imposed Feb. 10 deadline to determine how many positions can be filled and whether the savings will affect the remainder of the planned budget recommendations.
If the retirement savings is larger than forecast, Schubert said, it could affect which recommended cuts are implemented. However, such an outcome, he added, is “unlikely.”
“We have not had that discussion,” he said. “We have not gone back and prioritized which stuff we would take off the table. … I doubt we’re going to feel like we have a whole lot of excess savings.”