Senate opposes possible layoffs

Faculty Senate members considered opposing layoffs proposed by the administration.

Senate member Jim Wall, chair of the budget committee, said during his budget report that faculty received a letter Monday that stated some non-tenure track faculty employees may be laid off to save the university money. Senate members expressed concern for their coworkers.

“In regards to budget reductions, I am in receipt of a letter, yesterday, notifying Non-Tenure Track (Faculty) Association representatives of the possibility of layoffs among non-tenure track faculty,” Wall said. “While the letter is procedural in nature, there are strong indications that there will indeed be full or partial reductions in force.”

The news brought mixed reactions from Senate members.

“Based on what little information that I have from the budget specifics and any specific knowledge about the budget situation, I am personally not convinced that every possible budget-cutting measure has been exhausted,” Wall said.

He said the administration should not consider layoffs unless there is no other alternative.

George Boulukos, a senator and professor from the Department of English, said the Senate should receive more information before it makes any decisions regarding the layoffs.

He said he thinks money can be saved by taking a closer look at how it is being spent.

“The big problems here are salary commitment and enrollment shortfalls,” he said.

Boulukos said he found the news surprising because the university workforce shrank dramatically during the previous school year.

Faculty Senate President Meera Komarraju suggested the Senate discuss the topic at a later time, but other members rejected the idea.

“I think (this motion is) something we have to pick up, which is this body cannot tolerate layoffs, and we’re not just talking about layoffs,” said Holly Hurlburt, Senate member and an associate professor of history. “We’re talking about reduction in hours. We’re talking about people’s healthcare status changing. This is not acceptable.”

Senators passed a motion to oppose any staff layoffs unless the chancellor could provide a convincing reason to justify them.

“I understand that we are facing tough times, and I think that if there is a need for having layoffs, the sentiment in Faculty Senate … is that they would like to receive more information about the justification for why we need the layoffs and what efforts have been made to award that situation,” Komarraju said after the meeting.

Komarraju said the senators think the issue needs more conversation before they can make a judgment. She said she could not confirm whether the Senate would have an emergency meeting on the subject.

“What we’re really asking is to hear from the chancellor,” she said. “That’s what we really want, whether it’s a special meeting or she comes to our executive council.”

Neither Chancellor Rita Cheng nor Provost John Nicklow, who normally attend meetings to address senators’ concerns, attended Tuesday’s meeting.

Komarraju said many senators voiced concern about the proposed layoffs, suggesting more conversation between the upper administration and the Senate to address the issue.

“I think what Faculty Senate is thinking is not that (the administration is) downplaying (the situation),” she said. “But, maybe, there’s not enough conversation with the faculty … and all the different options of dealing with it.”

While potential layoffs were suggested to save the university money, senators also discussed other cost-saving measures. Diane Muzio, senator and senior lecturer at SIU’s Rehabilitation Institute, brought up proposed budget cuts to the different colleges at SIU.

Muzio said she heard the chancellor has said cuts would happen to every college, but the information provided at the meeting implied certain colleges would receive more than others.

“We have (an agreement), which calls for participation with the (administration) to sit down, talk about the budget, show the evidence of need and then talk about where these cuts are going to take place,” she said. “That never happens. We always get the pink slips; then (we) have to go back and wrangle over why it happened … As a body, I’d like to see us be better advocates for ourselves.”

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