Union addresses possible layoffs

The university’s Non-Tenure Track Faculty Association’s executive board met Monday to draft a response to a notice of possible layoffs sent to the union’s leader June 18.

A.J. Barrett, a professor of journalism and president of the NTTFA, said the response states that the union views the letter as precautionary and will not waive its rights to bargain the final decision and its impact on the university.

The NTTFA represents all teachers that are not on the tenure track. It includes guest lecturers, part-time employees, and off-campus employees, many of which are located at military bases around the country.

Chancellor Rita Cheng said the layoffs are only a possibility and the letter had to be delivered because of a requirement of notice in the NTTFA’s contract.

“The notice to the union was not about identifying any layoffs,” Cheng said. “It was saying we might have pressures that would trigger a potential adjustment.”

If there are any layoffs, there would be very few, Cheng said, because it differs from department to department. She said some departments may need more teachers because of the mass amount of retirements this year compared to last year, which have amounted to 329 across campus, while other departments may need to downsize. If an NTTFA member’s job is downsized from four courses to three, she said, that would technically be considered a layoff.

Continuing full-time NTTFA members must be notified by July 6 if the layoffs are necessary, and all others must be notified by July 21.

However, Cheng still said the layoffs are not necessarily going to happen. With the 329 retirements filed, there are more than 500 positions open on campus. While faculty and lecturers are still being hired, Cheng said the university has been very cautious and has tried to keep many positions left unfilled to compensate for the state budget cuts.

She said she also does not believe the Civil Service Union will have to worry about layoffs, because often if a position is not renewed in one department, the employee is able to be moved to another department with an opening.

Still, just the notice of possible layoffs can be a stress to both faculty and potential faculty.

Barrett said the NTTFA received a response from a potential employee who said he or she would not be applying to the university because of the notice.

“It’s scaring away good teachers,” she said.

The letter to the union cites state budget cuts and possible enrollment decline as reasons for the possible layoffs.

The state budget for Fiscal Year 2013 has been reduced from $217 million to $213 million. Also, while Cheng said she expects an increase in freshman enrollment again this year, there could still be a decline in enrollment overall because of small junior and senior classes and specific departments that are not growing.

Rod Sievers, university spokesman, said it’s possible enrollment will not go down, but the university will not know until the 10-day enrollment figures in the fall, which is when the total enrollment of the university is accounted for after the first 10 days of the semester. The figures are also broken down by departments and classes and compared to previous years to show patterns in increases and decreases in enrollment.

One issue that could lead to layoffs is the loss of state grants to NTT faculty, she said. Most of the teachers on grants are on term contracts that will not be renewed if the grant isn’t renewed, she said, but some teachers are on continuing appointments because the grant was previously always secured. Now, Cheng said she’s not sure those grants will be renewed either.

After similar concerns were raised in Dec. 2010 and summer 2011 about layoffs, Barrett said, she hopes the new language in the union’s contract will alleviate the issue. Article 14 of the contract states the conditions for layoffs must be extraordinary.

“We think that cuts to the teaching core of our university is not good for our students,” she said. “We view our unit as the solution to the financial difficulties, because you clearly don’t get any teachers less expensive than us.”

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About Tara Kulash

You can reach Tara at tkulash@dailyegyptian.com or 536-3311 ext. 255.

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