Faculty layoffs affect class schedules

Stephanie Markham, Editor-in-Chief

Some students will have to adjust their fall class schedules with half of Eastern’s academic departments seeing a reduction in annually contracted faculty.

President David Glassman announced last week that 26 faculty members have been laid off, three have been reduced to half time and about 10 other positions would not be filled.

Jeffrey Cross, the associate vice president for academic affairs, said of the 32 academic departments and two academic program areas on campus, 18 have been affected by those reductions.

However, Cross said the university is reluctant to specify how many are coming from each department.

“In some cases it’s one faculty member in one department,” he said. “That information has not been published because these are personnel matters, and that would allow the identification of individuals.”

Glassman said in a statement last Monday that student course enrollments would be managed “so that educational services to students are not negatively affected.”

Cross said this would be done through the department chairs managing professors’ workloads and the availability of seats in each course.

Some classes will have to be canceled while others must be consolidated or substituted for other courses entirely.

“(Chairs) have to do this at the start of every school year because some courses don’t make; some faculty depart,” Cross said. “It’s just they’re doing it in a more concentrated fashion in some departments this year.”

Cross said if a class is canceled that a student needs to graduate, a tutorial, independent study or equivalent available course will be substituted.

“Those kinds of things happen all the time,” he said.

To decide who would be laid off, Cross said deans worked with their department chairs to analyze faculty and student numbers.

“We’ve had a decline by attrition of our faculty, and it’s happened more rapidly in some departments than others,” he said.

The need for teaching declined along with enrollment, so about 10 slots for annually contracted faculty were not going to be filled anyway, Cross said.

Ann Fritz, president of Eastern’s chapter of the University Professionals of Illinois, said union members discussed Wednesday how they could help their colleagues who had offers of employment rescinded.

“The timing of the layoffs could not be worse for faculty given the near impossibility of finding a similar job this close to the beginning of the fall semester,” Fritz said.

She said the academic union consists of tenured and tenure-track faculty, academic support professionals, and annually contracted faculty.

The announced layoffs only affected annually contracted faculty, who had all signed offers of employment back in May.

“Folks who are having their contracts rescinded have years of service at EIU of up to 26 years,” Fritz said.

Cross said offers and acceptance of annually contracted faculty are always conditioned upon the university having adequate funds and enrollment.

He said the state’s budget was under negotiation when the contracts were issued, and it still has not been resolved.

“The vice presidents received directives for addressing the deficit projected for next year,” Cross said. “Those directives did not arrive until after the contracts were issued.”

Eastern’s projected deficit is between $12 million and $14 million with the loss of enrollment and state funding.

Cross said he does not know how much money the university will save through the faculty layoffs.

“We won’t know that until we do the accounting at the end of the year,” he said.

Meanwhile, Cross said students should pay attention to their academic advisers to ensure they are signed up for all the classes they need, as they should before the start of any school year.

He also said people should keep in mind that the university does not have control over many of the issues it is presently facing.

“There is one thing that we do have control over, and that is how we treat each other in this process that is extraordinarily difficult and will affect either directly or indirectly all sectors of the university,” Cross said. “Obviously from the faculty whose contracts were withdrawn, it affects them directly the most.”

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