Eastern to lay off employees throughout university

Stephanie Markham, Editor-in-Chief

The university will begin laying off employees before the fall semester to avoid a projected deficit of $12 million to $14 million in fiscal year 2016.

President David Glassman said in an interview Wednesday that he asked the vice presidents to provide expense reduction plans for their respective areas, including layoff recommendations.

Glassman said he gave them a timeline of the end of July or shortly after, and he will make the final decision of who will be laid off soon after reviewing their suggestions.

The Board of Trustees approved a fiscal year 2016 budget of $172 million last Friday. The budget anticipates the university’s receiving $40 million in state appropriations based on the legislature’s proposed 6.5 percent cut.

Glassman said his decision to implement the layoffs came after spending many hours with Paul McCann, the interim vice president for business affairs, as he prepared the budget.

“I spent a lot of time trying to understand the revenue structure with the established revenue from tuition and what we had received from the state last year,” he said.

After establishing the budget and reviewing previous cost-saving measures like attrition, Glassman said he realized he would have to do more to lower expenses this year.

With the pressures of low enrollment and 75 percent of fees going toward personnel expenses, Glassman said layoffs were necessary.

In addition to the layoffs, Glassman said he is also working with the vice presidents to develop revenue-generating initiatives and new academic programs to attract graduate and online students.

Meanwhile, the vice presidents are working with leaders in their areas to find ways to be more efficient with operations and staff, Glassman said.

He said he expects the layoffs to take place in every area of the university.

“The whole university is affected (by financial issues), not just one group,” Glassman said. “The entire university will be involved in the solution.”

He said he expects to cut more expenses from non-academic areas like business affairs, student affairs, university advancement and athletics.

However, because academics receives the most appropriated money, this area will likely be cut a higher dollar amount, Glassman said.

He said academics will likely be cut the lowest percentage in comparison to other areas of the university.

Ann Fritz, the president of Eastern’s chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois, said union contracts specify policies and procedures that must be followed by administrators in situations like this.

“It is important for all members of the university community to ask questions about their options,” Fritz said.

Glassman said employees’ contracts would be honored. For example, some faculty must be notified six months to one year in advance of being laid off. He also said tenured faculty would not be laid off.

Fritz said she and other union representatives plan to meet with Glassman to discuss the layoffs.

“Dr. Glassman has spent the summer talking to administrators about the budget,” Fritz said. “We can help him understand how the solutions they propose affect faculty, academic support professionals and the work we do with students.”

Glassman said some areas could be over-resourcing based on years when Eastern had closer to 12,000 students rather than 8,000.

He said the layoffs are not a matter of downsizing Eastern, but “right-sizing,” or making sure an appropriate number of faculty and staff are available to best serve the university’s number of students.

Fritz said she objects to the idea that personnel cuts would result in a “right-sized” university, and she believes Illinois needs to train and retain educated workers to thrive.

“Declining enrollment at EIU is a symptom of a revenue problem that state legislators need to solve so Illinois citizens have access to affordable education,” Fritz said.

The preliminary budget that the Board of Trustees approved for fiscal year 2017 anticipates the university’s receiving $38 million in state appropriations.

Glassman said he does not believe the university will have to go through the same process next year if the budget is successfully balanced this year.

He said even with everything remaining constant—no increase in freshman enrollment and no raise in tuition—the $2 million deficit would probably be covered by attrition and other minor adjustments.

“I don’t anticipate having to do this on a yearly basis,” he said.

He also said there have been no discussions of removing entire programs, and the program analysis completed by the Council on University Planning and Budget would factor into all decisions.

Glassman said getting through the financial challenge would put Eastern in a good position to achieve its vision in the future.

Fritz said it is difficult to bear the prospect of further losses of employees.

“It will be hard for anyone who works at EIU to feel secure about their own future, and each person who gets laid off will need to scramble to reconstruct their life,” she said. “This is serious business.”

Stephanie Markham can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected].