Senate receives feedback from administration

Faculty Senate members had some of their questions answered about proposed faculty layoffs and budget cuts to colleges.

A special meeting was called Tuesday in response to senate members’ requests for an explanation from Chancellor Rita Cheng about how the university budget is being handled as well as the possibility of non-tenure track faculty layoffs after a notice was sent to faculty Nov. 12. The meeting came one week after a regular Faculty Senate session, where members discussed the issues but were unable to receive any university leaders’ input.

Cheng said SIU has had a $15.5 million reduction in state appropriations as well as a $6.3 million net tuition decline.

“We have not been able to, in any way, make up for the appropriation decline,” Cheng said.

She said the university also funded faculty promotions and salary increases. The recent cease in state funding, she said, has been factored into the budget plan for the near future.

In relation to layoffs, Cheng said it’s being considered because there are few other options to balance the budget.

“That’s what we’ve got, and that’s what we’ve had for about the last three or four weeks,” she said. “I know rumors are different, but we’ve been working pretty hard.”

She said the budget challenges are being dealt with as best as possible.

Senate members then asked Cheng about how the budget is being managed.

Jyotsna Kapur, a professor in cinema and photography, asked Cheng if the budget committee factored in the student enrollment decline in this year’s budget.

Cheng said the committee factored in a student loss but did not expect there to be a decline as steep as almost 1,000. She said the decline cancelled out the expected income from the large amount of faculty and staff who retired during the summer.

Kapur also asked about where cuts in the budget could be made.

She said she thinks the money spent on marketing and advertising is a shortfall because it seems like an added expense to the university.

Cheng said six staff members from the marketing and communications department were reallocated, and state funds were not used for the marketing plan. She said the university is on its second year of a $2 million, five-year marketing contract.

Senators also discussed aministration-proposed budget cuts to different colleges at the Nov. 13 meeting.

Terri Wilson, an assistant professor in educational administration and higher education, asked the chancellor if she could explain why some colleges received more funding while others took heavy cuts.

“The increase in tuition was pretty much wiped out by the decline in enrollment, and that was about $4.5 to 5 million that could have come in but didn’t because of the enrollment decline,” Cheng said.

Cuts were then determined based on a formula the budget committee created, she said, which factored in things such as the number of new students at each college and the difference enrolled credit hours at each college.

Some senate members said they agreed with the formula set up for the budget cuts.

“If we go back five or six years when the cuts were flat … in those circumstances they were colleges that were growing who took cuts and colleges that were shrinking who took cuts,” said Ken Anderson, a professor in geology. “This is a better model. It may not seem like it if you are on the short end of the stick, but this is a better model.”

Meera Komarraju, senate president, said the meeting was productive for the group.

“I think we tried to make sure that everybody who had a question got to ask it,” she said. “I think just establishing the ground rules up front and letting people know we were going to proceed, I think, helped.”

Komarraju said she thinks the senate handled questions in a respectful manner and were able to receive answers to most of their questions.

“They had all these questions, and so they wanted these questions to be answered in a way that is convincing to them,” she said. “We went over time … and I’m glad we took the time to do that.”

 

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