Attrition used in place of faculty losses

Debby Hernandez, Administration Editor

Eastern administrators are using attrition to compensate for the total 58 faculty members who either retired or were not rehired during the 2013-14 academic year.

The teacher pension rate of return changed from 7.5 percent to 8 percent under the Teacher’s Retirement System of the State of Illinois, effective June 2014, according to the TRS website.

Blair Lord, the provost and vice president for academic affairs, said the change caused professors to retire early.

“Because of the discussions and ambiguities regarding what will happen to the state pension programs for people, some people felt they needed to retire before they got (the) ‘short end of the stick’ on an agreement over there,” Lord said.

As a result of retirees during the 2013-14 academic year, the university currently has a total shortage of 26 Unit A, 14 Unit B, and 18 non-negotiated faculty members for the 2014-15 academic year.

The number of Unit A members decreased from last year’s academic year from 394 to 368.

Unit B members went down from 173 last year to 159 this year.

Non-negotiated faculty numbers dropped from 90 last year to 64.

A total of 121 faculty positions went vacant, but 63 of the positions were filled with either new hires or position redistribution.

Lord said the new hires only make up for those who retired the previous year, making it difficult to catch up with the continuous change of retiree numbers.

“The ones we hire for next fall are really the ones replacing the ones that retired a year ago, so there is always a delayed reaction in there, which makes it a fairly tricky management issue of the workforce,” Lord said.

A total of 35 Unit A and B faculty vacant positions were retirees, with 25 members from Unit A and 10 members from Unit B.

Lord said retirement numbers were significantly high for the 2014-15 academic year.

“One thing we do know about last year is that 25 retirements out of Unit A was an unusually high number,” he said. “That is not likely to be repeated this year.”

Lord said the typical number of retirees for Unit A faculty is between 15 to 18.

He said the number of Unit B retirees nearly doubled from the normal number of retirees being 5 to 6 faculty members.

Lord said Eastern must maximize the advantage of attrition in order to decrease university expenditures within divisions, as recommended by the Council on University Planning and Budgeting

“Ninety percent of the division of academic affairs budget is tied up in people,” he said. “In order to get to a reduction of expenditures at the level that the division was expected to achieve, I had to take advantage of a lot of departures.”

Lord said using attrition is the alternative that was used save money while remaining fair.

“The only way to really get savings out of that is to have fewer people working,” he said.

“The one that causes the least pain for the individuals involved from the humanitarian standpoint, is to take advantage of instances were people say ‘I choose not to work.’”

Lord said information provided by the Board of Trustees in June suggested continuing to reduce expenditures until 2016 because of low enrollment and lack of funds.

“We continue to have the challenge of balancing expected expenditures with expected

revenue,” he said. “I fully anticipate that we will continue needing to save money next year.”

However, Lord said attrition cannot be used for everything, and at some point new people need to be hired for the purpose of providing students with their educational needs.

“In some cases somebody leaves that is essential to delivering the curriculum, and we have to do something to have somebody replace lost coursework,” he said.  “At the end of the day my job, and the job of the academic administration, is to deliver the curriculum we promised to students, someway, somehow.”

Debby Hernandez can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].