The university will reduce faculty by 30 full-time positions through retirement packages and non-renewal of contracts for non-tenured faculty as part of an effort to make up a $7-8 million budget deficit.
University provost Dr. Robert Rhodes said a voluntary retirement incentive was offered to 27 tenured faculty, and 24 accepted the offer. Other faculty positions were cut through “natural transitions” as contracts were not renewed for ten full-time and part-time positions – an equivalent of six full-time positions.
The Board of Trustees approved the plan to reduce faculty and offer retirement packages at its November meeting. This was done to prevent a potential budget deficit of 5-7 percent, or $7-8 million. Faculty salaries and benefits account for more than 55 percent of the overall university budget. Rhodes said departmental budgets and structures will remain the same.
Rhodes said his office looked at each program to give priority to positions that would not have to be replaced based on the number of students and program needs.
“Sometimes you have a retirement incentive that is eligible to anyone interested,” Rhodes said. “This was more strategic in looking at areas where we might have that level of flexibility versus areas where we did not.”
Rhodes said retirement packages were the same for each person, although a different percentage was offered to faculty in positions that would be replaced than to those that would not be replaced. Three of the 27 faculty who were offered the buyout chose not to take it, so Rhodes said the next step is to look at other positions that might be an option for the buyout.
“Since it’s voluntary, it’s really up to the person,” Rhodes said. “But fortunately, most individuals felt like this was a good option for them at this point.”
Faculty who do not have tenure must have their contract with the university renewed each year. Rhodes said contracts were sent out Feb. 1, and the equivalent of six full-time positions were cut through this process.
“We have the natural transitions that occur of people who, for other reasons, are separating from the university or positions that become open,” Rhodes said. “We’ve worked for those areas that were not part of this retirement incentive but part of the natural annual transition.”
Rhodes said the board provided funding for a retirement package, which allowed the university to cut the budget in a healthy way. The provost’s office will update the board on the progress at its meeting Feb. 16-17.
“This is the type of activity that you never want to be involved in,” Rhodes said, “but if we’re going to take a challenging situation and do a good job with it, I feel like we have.”
The provost and the university did not release a list of those faculty accepting the retirement incentive. Several faculty members independently confirmed to The Optimist they have chosen to accept the offer.