The loss of 300 faculty and staff may sound imposing, but a number of academics, from assistant professors to school deans, said this week that the announced cuts, the freeze on new hiring and the reduction of school budgets will have almost no effect on faculty, research or the classes students are pre-registering for this fall. Seemingly the most dramatic part of a series of budgetary cutbacks, the 300-position cut through retirement, attrition, reassignment and layoffs, is regarded by faculty as less worrisome than the hiring freeze, which some fear will lock out new talent, and the budget cuts, which many fear will affect salaries. Faculty, however, said administrators seem to realize significant cuts could quickly hurt the University's prestige, particularly in the area of research. Faculty also say administrators seem to have received their message that salaries below current levels would make the University less attractive to outside talent. Top administrators, however, have acted quickly to allay any lingering fears. A special meeting was held last Wednesday to allow President Sheldon Hackney, Provost Michael Aiken and Budget Director Stephen Golding to present the budget to faculty members. Engineering Dean Gregory Farrington even held his own meeting soon after to explain what the cuts will mean to Engineering faculty in particular. The message, according to Mechanical Engineering Assistant Professor Vijay Kumar, was that cuts will mean very little. Kumar, who serves as an assistant professor representative to the Faculty Senate's Executive Committee, said any layoffs would probably affect small numbers of staff members rather than faculty, and that, among schools, Engineering would probably be one of the least affected. "I don't think faculty raises will be compromised either," Kumar added. Since faculty, particularly those with tenure, are protected from layoffs, Kumar said the University may instead offer special incentives to make retirement attractive to older professors -- an opinion shared by many at the University. Kumar further said it would be "foolish" for the University to cut assistant professors currently on the tenure track and said any departing assistant professors during the period of cuts would probably be those with poor records. Other faculty admitted they have trouble interpreting the 300-person cut, calling it a vague budgetary goal since the retirement of one senior professor can save income comparable to that of several assistant professors. "I kind of read it as an abstract declaration," Elaine Simon, assistant director of Urban Studies, said yesterday. "I don't think they've thought specifically about it." "Maybe they think the state will reinstate some of that money so they won't have to do it as seriously as they have said," she added. Simon said the budget structure of the Urban Studies program, which relies heavily on outside experts to teach classes, probably protects its classes from the freeze. She said the program is budgeted to pay for specific classes rather than specific lecturers, allowing them to keep the money for a course even if the professor changes. Simon added that hiring outside lecturers is generally less expensive than using standing faculty, arguing that it would save little for the administration to cut from a program that offers that kind of "bang for the buck." "I had some momentary thoughts that it might affect some way," Simon said. "It didn't send shock waves. I didn't panic." Department heads and faculty members in several departments echoed Simon's viewpoint, and said they do not foresee budget cuts affecting student's classes at all. Officials in the Registrar's Office said they have received no feedback from individual schools that budget cuts will lead to cancelled classes next fall, but said any cuts would be published in the Course and Room Roster for next fall and schedule addendums.Comments powered by Disqus
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