Summer retirements place strain on faculty, staff

The combination of a hiring freeze and the loss of hundreds of experienced SIU employees this summer has caused concern among some faculty and staff.

Although the exact aftermath of more than 300  faculty and staff retirements this June has not been calculated in relation to the number of consolidated positions or workload amounts, union leaders are worried the faculty and staff reduction will leave employees displeased.

Chancellor Rita Cheng said 329 employees on campus retired this summer; 70 of those were faculty. Although 40 faculty have been hired on, she said many of those positions will not be filled.

“We’re using these open positions to make our budget reduction from the state appropriation decline, and that’s a permanent cut, so we won’t be able to hire many of these people back,” she said.

The university received a 6.14 percent cut this year from the state, which reduced the budget by $4 million. In response to this, Cheng said, the university is looking to reassign and reorganize many positions from staff to directors in order to find a way to share and reassign duties.

“It’s a difficult time in higher education,” she said. “We have many people doing the work of many more people than in the past, and we’re going to have to figure out a way to handle the workload, and where there’s inefficiencies and redundancies. We’ve got to make sure we’re not having duplicate work being done.”

With fewer employees performing the jobs of what was once a larger number of faculty and staff, some union leaders have expressed concern that people will become strained with their workload. Cheng said the university is not violating any workload limitations.

“We’re not violating anybody’s workload, but people are working harder,” she said. “They’re doing work that in some cases more people did in the past.”

Cheng said because there are fewer students, some workloads have been reduced because there are fewer students to serve.

“We are going to be stressed for quite a number of months and years here as we build enrollment,” she said. “That’s going to be the one source of new money that’s going to be able to fund new hires. We won’t be able to hire people back until we grow enrollment.”

 

Tenure-Track Faculty

 

Rachel Stocking, president of the Faculty Association, said something she thinks is important for faculty and civil service staff is that the loss this summer combined with the hiring freeze comes on top of a backlog of reduction in SIU employees.

“The retirements come on top of years of not hiring, and so it’s like the straw that hasn’t broken the camel’s back,” she said.

Stocking said her department lost a staff member last year, which has placed a burden on what the other faculty and staff in the department have to do.

“There’s this interrelationship,” she said. “But then in terms of the faculty in general, I think that’s what the biggest problem is, the workload, you lose people in the faculty and the department has to pick up the slack. That affects everybody.”

Faculty-to-student ratio is one of the more definable workload requirements in the Faculty Association contract, Stocking said. Other workload stipulations vary by department. Because enrollment has declined, she said, the ratio of 1 professor to 26 students is unlikely to be exceeded.

Operating papers, or workload specifications for individual departments through the Faculty Association, measure how much work a faculty member must complete in relation to his or her compensation. On top of teaching loads, research and services are workloads which are harder to calculate but vary by department and the operating papers, Stocking said.

“The fear is that because of the retirements and the hiring freeze at the same time, there will be efforts to start changing the traditional arrangement and try to institute other ways of increased workload, particularly, teaching load,” she said.

She said because many senior faculty hold service positions on top of research and teaching commitments, the loss of senior faculty from retirements can cause these faculty to take on extra service duties, which include serving on committees and helping to run departments.

“You have to really care about it to do a good job at it,” she said. “And the fewer faculty there are, the more you’re asking other faculty to put that in. The problem then is that the researchers are able to put less and less energy and time in.”

Stocking said although she is concerned about how the hiring freeze and retirements will affect faculty, she is also strongly concerned about the civil service employees.

 

Civil Service

 

Although the numbers of lost and hired civil service employees have not been compiled, Cyndi Kessler-Criswell, president of the Association of Civil Service Employees and office manager for the Rehabilitation Institute, said the union has noticed the hiring freezes’ and retirements’ effects before this summer.

“We were noticing effects before the retirements,” she said. “And that continues. I only hear about people that are unhappy, generally.”

Criswell said union members noticed there have been more civil service employees doing job sharing where they work more than one position. Often, she said, they may work mornings in one position and afternoons in another.

“I would think it would be hard to change channels,” she said. “Because you know what it’s like when you’re watching a television program and you have to go from one channel to another, trying to keep track of what’s going on. Well, this is a job.”

Criswell said she thinks many duties might be in jeopardy by employees performing duo-jobs, where some staff might be expected to do two-days’ worth of work in one day, because a lot of things depend on staff doing a good job.

Some employees who have taken on the different duties really enjoy it, Criswell said. She said some staff like it because of the variety and increased work pace.

“They feel needed. They never have a dull moment,” she said. “They absolutely love both jobs. But there are some who only like one of the jobs.”

Criswell said she fears that because civil service employees are paid hourly, some might take on extra hours to do the extra workload. Then, if that position is open for review later for another staff hire, it might appear to the university that one person is able to do that job.

“I don’t like to hear that, but when you have so much work, there are people who will work through their lunch, stay late to get the job done, and I think, in a way, they’re kind of hurting the situation because it looks to the administration that they’re able to do the work.”

When the work doesn’t get done, Criswell said, that shows workers are needed.

“No one person can do the job of two people in one day,” she said. “And so some of the duties are going to go to the wayside. I think there’s a concern that the duties that may be cut will affect people. And that all remains to be seen.”

Criswell emphasized nothing is definitive at this point, yet she is concerned some full-time staff might be replaced by student workers, as well as many extra help staff employed for 900-hour-long positions that might fill regular staff positions.

According to a release from the Saluki Times, there were 124 new hires in June; 89 of which were extra help positions. Criswell said the university does not have to pay benefits for those employees.

“You can fill an immediate void without a search and get around a lot of angles that way, and then if those people work out, you could hire them,” she said.

Although the university is said to be in a hiring freeze because of budget constraints, Criswell said civil service employees are being hired, but only by showing a need and getting a hire approved through administration. As staff losses and position changes continue to be evaluated, Criswell said she hopes everything works out.

“SIU is a very good school,” she said. “And I think that the people who are here want to make it work.”

Non-Tenure Track Faculty

 

Anita Barrett, president of the Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association, said she has heard about some faculty taking on the duties of other employees.

“We’re Salukis, and we’re pretty tough,” she said. “But, fair pay for fair work. You can’t take on work for nothing.”

Barrett said she is really concerned, as a Carbondale citizen, about local business owners and the effect of declining enrollment, as well as personnel not being replaced having an effect on the local economy.

“That affects the community as a whole,” she said. “We’ve got to get enrollment up. That would be the best thing of all.”

Barrett said she thinks the university should ask faculty and staff for ideas to solve enrollment issues and how to adequately fill open positions on campus.

“No one asked the professionals who are here what we think about things,” she said. “No one is asking the professionals that we have here what we think we can do to help, and yet we’re expected to just jump on board and help.”

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