As the university settles into the second month of the fiscal year, faculty and staff members on the Urbana campus face difficult choices about how to sustain quality instruction and services with fewer people and economic resources.
While the university’s enrollment is at an all-time high of 70,000 FTE students, its state appropriation of about $697 million for FY04 was nearly 8 percent less than the prior fiscal year.
On the Urbana campus, administrative units’ budgets have been cut an average of about 10.5 percent, according to Bill Adams, associate provost.
Although administrators tried to shield academic programming as much as possible, academic units’ budgets were reduced by an average of 8 percent.
“But it was quite differential - some were higher and some were lower,” Adams said. “We don’t do just across-the-board cuts. And the decisions are made with the advice of campus committees, faculty and others. Quite frankly, it’s a very inclusive, very good process whereby we get input from a lot of appropriate sources about how units should be treated.”
Administrators tried to mitigate budget reductions for smaller units such as the Faculty/Staff Assistance Program and units for which drastic reductions might compromise the welfare of the campus community, such as McKinley Health Center and the Division of Public Safety.
Campus units also were asked to keep 3 percent of their state funds in reserve as a safeguard against a possible rescission by the Legislature later on, as happened in the prior fiscal year.
One of the academic programs affected by the budgetary cuts is the First-Year Discovery Program, which will be reduced from about 145 to 104 course offerings during the fall semester and will not be offered during the spring 2004 semester.
Begun in 1994, the popular program enables tenured faculty members to share their research interests with freshmen in classes of 20 students or fewer.
“We ought to be able to reasonably accommodate our freshmen during the fall semester, even though they’ll have fewer choices and may have to work harder to fit it into their schedules,” Adams said.
Administrators hope that curtailing the Discovery Program will be a temporary measure and that they will be able to restore the program in the future.
Another program hard hit by reduced state funding is the Critical Research Initiatives, administered by Charles Zukoski, vice chancellor for research. The program provides seed money for novel, multidisciplinary research projects. Its state funding was slashed by nearly half, about $400,000 this fiscal year. Although the impact will not be immediate because the research projects in the program are funded on a two-year, staggered schedule, the diminution of funds means that only half as many new projects will receive support this year.
“The thing that makes this really sad is that this program has been enormously successful,” Zukoski said. “The rate of return on investment has been like Wall Street during its boom phase: We were getting just fantastic returns on those investments. But the decision had to be made between good and essential programs, and so we’re now cutting ‘good’ programs.”
Economic constraints on campus also are forcing tough choices about how to fund both economic development activities and faculty research that may lead to marketable technologies in the future, Zukoski said.
Administrators are concerned about the long-term impact that diminished economic resources for research funding and faculty salaries will have on Illinois’ competitive edge in attracting and retaining outstanding faculty members, students and federal research dollars. That impact may not be evident for a few years.
Around campus, units have begun implementing cost-containment measures to help stretch their diminished resources as far as possible.
Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services will not offer 24-hour instructional computing labs during the 2003-2004 academic year, although some labs will offer 24-hour access during finals week. Users also will have to pay a little more – 10 cents instead of 8 cents – for printing black-and-white copies.
CITES also is suspending operation of its antivirus archive service, although the system will be in place until Aug. 15 so that campus systems reliant upon it can be redirected to other services.
A $470,000 cut in the library’s student wage budget is forcing the library to reduce most of its graduate assistants to 38-percent appointments. And since many of the graduate assistants work in the 42 departmental libraries, those libraries are having to curtail their evening and weekend hours, according to Bob Burger, associate university librarian.
“The larger libraries’ hours are pretty much staying where they are because the provost was gracious enough to give us a little bit of extra money,” Burger said. “We’re going to have the undergraduate library open until 3 a.m. Sunday through Thursday, just like Grainger is, so we’re going to try to compensate that way.”
Library administrators are hoping that technology will allay some of the impact of the cutbacks. Beginning in the fall, several more of the departmental libraries’ reserves will become available online so that users can access materials despite shorter operating hours.
Although the library’s acquisitions budget remained the same for FY04, inflation will erode its purchasing power this fiscal year, forcing cancellation of some serials and journals. Librarians are consulting usage records and faculty members as they decide which publications are least used and could be discontinued.
With salaries and wages representing approximately 80 percent of the state-funded portion of the university’s budget, personnel costs have been one of the areas targeted for savings.
Between 80 and 90 faculty positions being vacated during FY04 through attrition, such as retirements and resignations, will not be filled. Approximately 120-130 academic professional positions also are being eliminated, about 80 of them by issuing terminal contracts. The effects of those terminations will be seen throughout the year as the contracts require six or 12-months’ notice for termination, depending on the employees’ length of service, Adams said.
Approximately 210 civil service staff members are being affected as well. Layoff notices were issued to 117 people effective June 30. As a result of vacancies, retirements and resignations, all those employees were able to move to other jobs, Adams said.
In mid-August, about 65 more layoffs will be initiated, and administrators anticipate about half of those workers will be reassigned to other positions.
Burger said the library has lost 24 positions, approximately 10 percent of its civil service staff, through attrition since last fall, thus avoiding direct layoffs.
“Because these vacancies occur serendipitously, we’re having to transfer staff around the library. This just creates a thinner depth of staff all over the place,” Burger said. “So what we’re trying to do in individual units is figure out what’s really central now, so some things that we were doing in the past will be going by the wayside. We’re hoping to use technology to some degree to make up for this, but there are things that just can’t be done anymore.”
The Division of Planning, Construction and Maintenance (PC&M) has lost approximately 36 positions, including a couple that will occur in August, due to layoffs and attrition, according to Jeff Oberg, director of financial and administrative services.
As a result of staffing reductions in PC&M, intracampus mail delivery has been decreased to once daily. Noncritical maintenance requests may not be addressed as quickly and aesthetic concerns such as flowerbed maintenance, exterior painting and lawn care will be minimized. Routine custodial services in nonpublic areas – cleaning private offices, trash disposal, interior lighting replacements – also are being curtailed.
The Personnel Services Office is offering a Career Transition Assistance Program, a series of workshops to assist displaced workers in job hunting, career planning, managing their university benefits and accessing unemployment compensation.
As part of the transition program, the Faculty/Staff Assistance Program is providing workshops on stress management and semimonthly support groups for workers faced with job loss. However, displaced employees and their families have not been the only ones affected by the staffing changes.
“When you have this turmoil, people are really under stress,” Burger said. “We’ve been having stress-management workshops internally to try to deal with this. People are trying to do the best they can, and we appreciate it.”
In the workshops and support groups, co-workers and supervisors of departing employees have said that saying goodbye to longtime colleagues who have been reassigned or terminated has been taking an emotional toll on them as well, said Terrry Jobin, director of the Faculty/Staff Assistance Program.