President David Glassman talked about the consequences of not having a state appropriation and said the university had no comment on the Federal Communications Commission spectrum auction at the Council on University Planning and Budgeting meeting Friday.
Glassman said the next few weeks are pivotal for higher education in regards to how it will end up at the end of the fiscal year and how Eastern will conduct itself for the remainder of the semester.
“It’s incredible that we don’t have a budget by this time, it’s incredible that we don’t have appropriations at this time, it’s incredible that we don’t have (Monetary Award Program) reimbursements at this time, but that’s where we are,” Glassman said.
Glassman said Eastern depends on the appropriation it gets from the state to operate and those in Springfield are aware of that.
“We’re fighting for ourselves, and we’re also fighting for higher education in the state,” Glassman said.
Glassman is preparing a statement to update the campus on what is happening.
He said the implications to Eastern will depend on whether or not the university gets funding.
“If we get funding, with everything we did at the beginning of the year, the position’s just right to have a balanced budget and be completely strong with no problems,” Glassman said.
The appropriation was originally going to be cut by 6.5 percent for the year, but Gov. Bruce Rauner asked for a 31.5 percent reduction.
“Right now, it could be minus 100 percent, we’ve got no appropriation,” Glassman said. “So you can imagine that we are not in a position to just be status quo and run the rest of the year without making some difficult changes if we don’t get an appropriation.”
These include major cuts in spending in the university that are “non-instructional.”
Glassman said if the implication is that Eastern would not get an appropriation from the state until later in the year, or not at all, the university will have to start looking at additional layoffs and additional furloughs.
“It’s just the nature of the budget that we’re dealing with right now,” Glassman said. “I am hopeful; I remain optimistic that in the next few weeks they’ll resolve this.”
Glassman said something would have to happen by about mid-February or they would soon start cutting non-instructional spending and begin a complete hiring freeze no matter what the position is.
“Obviously, I don’t want to do layoffs of a lot of people and then find out the week later that we have an appropriation,” Glassman said. “I have to time it, but again, we have to get through our semester and do that for our students.”
Glassman said the two priorities the school has are the students and their academic excellence and the employees of the university and their payroll.
“It is a totally unbelievable situation in the state of Illinois,” Glassman said. “It’s as if they made EIU a private university without telling us.”
On the topic of the Federal Communications Commission spectrum auction, Glassman said Eastern had no comment on whether or not the university had filed the application to sell the spectrum for allotted WEIU-TV television operations.
“If I do say that we filed, it could affect other TV stations in the area as to what they would get,” Glassman said. “It has been decided not to disclose (this information).”
Dominic Baima, a student representative on CUPB, asked why the public forum on the FCC auction had not been before January.
“It’s something this committee should have talked about, because it is a large sum of money, possibly, most likely unlikely, and it’s part of the planning,” Baima said. “If you take that away, you’re killing a vital part of the program.”
He said having WEIU-TV was an important educational experience and by considering selling it, it seemed like they were bailing on the students.
“Just because of a couple dollars we might not even get?” Baima said. “(WEIU-TV) is vital for our community and students.”
Glassman said he has read and answered emails from those who are against selling the spectrum, but there are others who think differently.
“I just think we feel blindsided by (the spectrum auction), especially students in journalism,” Baima said.
Glassman said he is sensitive to the feelings of the students and journalism department.
Vice President for Academic Affairs Blair Lord also gave an update about enrollment for the spring semester.
“If you remember our fall figures, we were down just shy of seven percent,” Lord said. “Typically, you would expect to see a similar reflection in the spring.”
Graduate enrollment is up eleven percent, or 132 students from last spring.
Lord said he has been engaged with several units on campus and other institutions on trying to increase Eastern’s presence in the nursing programs.
At the meeting, Tim Zimmer, director of facilities planning and management, said they were down about 12 Building Service Workers.
He has asked a couple of academic departments if they can take some classrooms offline to maintain higher cleaning standards in other spaces.
“Otherwise, we clean every classroom every day,” Zimmer said. “Every one of those classrooms we can take offline means we can dedicate resources to other areas and minimize the impact.”
Cassie Buchman can be reached at 581-2812 or [email protected]