Creative restructuring and adherence to the strategic plan are among the keys Washington State University leaders have used during the past several months as they worked to overcome a $25.5 million state funding shortage. It now appears the university will enter the 2002 – 03 year with the impact minimized.
Will the university escape unscarred? “No,” say administrators, “but things are looking better than initially anticipated.”
Ultimately this year’s state funding shortage will result in fewer course sections or larger class sizes and some reduction in services. In the College of Agriculture and Home Economics, some research projects are being reduced. And 141 positions will be eliminated or removed from permanent state funding as of July 1.
But, because WSU recognized the state’s financial dilemma last fall and began preparing for the budget cut through a freeze on hiring, the impact on employees has been dramatically reduced, said Karl Boehmke, executive budget director. Of the 141 positions affected by the budget changes, 114 are vacant or are being transferred to other funding. Consequently, only 27 currently held positions will be affected on July 1 by the cutback — nine nontenured faculty, one administrative professional staff member and 17 classified staff. Those numbers may decrease further as affected classified staff members move through the layoff process, or if alternative funding is found.
Putting the circumstance in perspective, the university was able to limit its immediate personnel cuts to less than 0.5 percent of the total workforce. And program cuts were made based on enrollment levels, reputation, future growth potential, and alignment with strategic goals.
“I am deeply grateful to administrators and leaders throughout the university for the positive alternatives and determined approach they brought to the table in overcoming this challenge. Together, they have made the best of a trying circumstance,” said WSU President V. Lane Rawlins. “Although the last nine months have been tough, WSU has proven once again that it is resilient.
“As a university, our greatest strength is determined by the quality of our faculty and staff, so every layoff is painful. But even in the midst of these layoffs, we remain a community. And our human resource representatives are working aggressively to do everything they can for the people whose jobs were impacted.
“It’s important to remember that not only have we persevered through this challenge, we have continued to make progress toward our strategic goals. Although we are being forced to turn away hundreds of qualified applicants, we will still have our highest fall enrollment on record with what may be the best academic freshman class the university has seen. Grants and contracts continue to grow, now up $111.5 million, or 59.7 percent over the past five years. Our talented faculty are being recognized regularly as national and regional leaders, bringing exciting and important discoveries to the marketplace and academic community. And, most recently, we added a new foundation president, Rick Frisch, who will help lead the way to growing private support and a better-funded future.
“Now we must focus our attention on continuing to fulfill our calling as a world-class research university,” Rawlins said. “We must remain determined to follow the course charted in our strategic plan and to work with business leaders, universities and legislators to establish more stable, equitable funding for all of higher education.”
Coincidentally, state economic officials announced on Tuesday that “the Washington economy appears to be nearing the end of the recession,” with revenue collections up $178.3 million over earlier estimates.
When considering the entire 141 positions being affected, however, here’s the breakdown:
• Faculty. There are 58 faculty positions being affected, 49 of them are vacant or being transferred to other funding, with the remaining nine nontenured individuals not receiving reappointments.
• Administrative/professional. There are 19 A/P positions eliminated, 18 vacant or transferred, one not reappointed.
• Classified. There are 55 classified positions eliminated, 37 vacant or transferred, and 17 with incumbents entering the layoff process.
• Graduate assistants. Nine graduate assistant positions, now vacant, will be eliminated or removed from state funding.
“These reductions are the latest of a long series of state cutbacks made during the past decade,” said Boehmke. “As a result, there are no easy reductions left to make. Because the vast majority of the university’s budget — 84 percent — is devoted to salaries and benefits, position reductions cannot be avoided,” Boehmke said.
Tom Brigham, secretary of the Faculty Senate, noted, “Each dean is doing the best he or she can to minimize the impact on the academic program, but there’s no doubt these are serious cuts that will affect our ability to deliver classes, programs and degrees. Budget cuts are hard, and I don’t want to pretend I could do them better. We may not all agree with every decision that’s been made, but I have to believe they were made in good faith.”
On June 10, the Budget Office, in tandem with colleges and units throughout the university, presented the numbers on how the 2002 – 03 budget will be divvied up.
Click on the following url link to go to the Budget Office’s Web site, which offers a detailed look at those figures, the size of the reductions, and a unit-by-unit narrative regarding how allocations were prioritized.
Due to rules and regulations governing the termination of classified staff positions, which takes into account seniority, classification, bumping rights and availability of other positions, a high percentage of the 17 people who receive layoff notices are expected to retain employment with WSU. A detailed description of the classified staff layoff process can be found at the Human Resource Services site.
Similarly, faculty positions are subject to a variety of rules, as outlined in the WSU Faculty Manual, which is available by clicking the following link. When faculty “nonreappointments” occur, 3 to 12 months notice is required, depending upon how long a faculty member has been employed by the university. Consequently, many colleges must use temporary or alternative funding to pay for those positions in the meantime.