23, No. 3, Aug. 7, 2003
makes difficult decisions to accommodate budget cuts
Sharita Forrest, Assistant Editor
(217) 244-1072; email@example.com
As the university
settles into the second month of the fiscal year, faculty and staff
members on the Urbana campus face difficult choices about how to sustain
quality instruction and services with fewer people and economic resources.
While the university’s enrollment is at an all-time high of 70,000
FTE students, its state appropriation of about $697 million for FY04
was nearly 8 percent less than the prior fiscal year.
On the Urbana campus, administrative units’ budgets have been
cut an average of about 10.5 percent, according to Bill Adams, associate
Although administrators tried to shield academic programming as much
as possible, academic units’ budgets were reduced by an average
of 8 percent.
“But it was quite differential - some were higher and some were
lower,” Adams said. “We don’t do just across-the-board
cuts. And the decisions are made with the advice of campus committees,
faculty and others. Quite frankly, it’s a very inclusive, very
good process whereby we get input from a lot of appropriate sources
about how units should be treated.”
Administrators tried to mitigate budget reductions for smaller units
such as the Faculty/Staff Assistance Program and units for which drastic
reductions might compromise the welfare of the campus community, such
as McKinley Health Center and the Division of Public Safety.
Campus units also were asked to keep 3 percent of their state funds
in reserve as a safeguard against a possible rescission by the Legislature
later on, as happened in the prior fiscal year.
One of the academic programs affected by the budgetary cuts is the First-Year
Discovery Program, which will be reduced from about 145 to 104 course
offerings during the fall semester and will not be offered during the
spring 2004 semester.
Begun in 1994, the popular program enables tenured faculty members to
share their research interests with freshmen in classes of 20 students
“We ought to be able to reasonably accommodate our freshmen during
the fall semester, even though they’ll have fewer choices and
may have to work harder to fit it into their schedules,” Adams
Administrators hope that curtailing the Discovery Program will be a
temporary measure and that they will be able to restore the program
in the future.
Another program hard hit by reduced state funding is the Critical Research
Initiatives, administered by Charles Zukoski, vice chancellor for research.
The program provides seed money for novel, multidisciplinary research
projects. Its state funding was slashed by nearly half, about $400,000
this fiscal year. Although the impact will not be immediate because
the research projects in the program are funded on a two-year, staggered
schedule, the diminution of funds means that only half as many new projects
will receive support this year.
“The thing that makes this really sad is that this program has
been enormously successful,” Zukoski said. “The rate of
return on investment has been like Wall Street during its boom phase:
We were getting just fantastic returns on those investments. But the
decision had to be made between good and essential programs, and so
we’re now cutting ‘good’ programs.”
Economic constraints on campus also are forcing tough choices about
how to fund both economic development activities and faculty research
that may lead to marketable technologies in the future, Zukoski said.
Administrators are concerned about the long-term impact that diminished
economic resources for research funding and faculty salaries will have
on Illinois’ competitive edge in attracting and retaining outstanding
faculty members, students and federal research dollars. That impact
may not be evident for a few years.
Around campus, units have begun implementing cost-containment measures
to help stretch their diminished resources as far as possible.
Campus Information Technologies and Educational Services will not offer
24-hour instructional computing labs during the 2003-2004 academic year,
although some labs will offer 24-hour access during finals week. Users
also will have to pay a little more – 10 cents instead of 8 cents
– for printing black-and-white copies.
CITES also is suspending operation of its antivirus archive service,
although the system will be in place until Aug. 15 so that campus systems
reliant upon it can be redirected to other services.
A $470,000 cut in the library’s student wage budget is forcing
the library to reduce most of its graduate assistants to 38-percent
appointments. And since many of the graduate assistants work in the
42 departmental libraries, those libraries are having to curtail their
evening and weekend hours, according to Bob Burger, associate university
“The larger libraries’ hours are pretty much staying where
they are because the provost was gracious enough to give us a little
bit of extra money,” Burger said. “We’re going to
have the undergraduate library open until 3 a.m. Sunday through Thursday,
just like Grainger is, so we’re going to try to compensate that
Library administrators are hoping that technology will allay some of
the impact of the cutbacks. Beginning in the fall, several more of the
departmental libraries’ reserves will become available online
so that users can access materials despite shorter operating hours.
Although the library’s acquisitions budget remained the same for
FY04, inflation will erode its purchasing power this fiscal year, forcing
cancellation of some serials and journals. Librarians are consulting
usage records and faculty members as they decide which publications
are least used and could be discontinued.
With salaries and wages representing approximately 80 percent of the
state-funded portion of the university’s budget, personnel costs
have been one of the areas targeted for savings.
Between 80 and 90 faculty positions being vacated during FY04 through
attrition, such as retirements and resignations, will not be filled.
Approximately 120-130 academic professional positions also are being
eliminated, about 80 of them by issuing terminal contracts. The effects
of those terminations will be seen throughout the year as the contracts
require six or 12-months’ notice for termination, depending on
the employees’ length of service, Adams said.
Approximately 210 civil service staff members are being affected as
well. Layoff notices were issued to 117 people effective June 30. As
a result of vacancies, retirements and resignations, all those employees
were able to move to other jobs, Adams said.
In mid-August, about 65 more layoffs will be initiated, and administrators
anticipate about half of those workers will be reassigned to other positions.
Burger said the library has lost 24 positions, approximately 10 percent
of its civil service staff, through attrition since last fall, thus
avoiding direct layoffs.
“Because these vacancies occur serendipitously, we’re having
to transfer staff around the library. This just creates a thinner depth
of staff all over the place,” Burger said. “So what we’re
trying to do in individual units is figure out what’s really central
now, so some things that we were doing in the past will be going by
the wayside. We’re hoping to use technology to some degree to
make up for this, but there are things that just can’t be done
The Division of Planning, Construction and Maintenance (PC&M) has
lost approximately 36 positions, including a couple that will occur
in August, due to layoffs and attrition, according to Jeff Oberg, director
of financial and administrative services.
As a result of staffing reductions in PC&M, intracampus mail delivery
has been decreased to once daily. Noncritical maintenance requests may
not be addressed as quickly and aesthetic concerns such as flowerbed
maintenance, exterior painting and lawn care will be minimized. Routine
custodial services in nonpublic areas – cleaning private offices,
trash disposal, interior lighting replacements – also are being
The Personnel Services Office is offering a Career Transition Assistance
Program, a series of workshops to assist displaced workers in job hunting,
career planning, managing their university benefits and accessing unemployment
As part of the transition program, the Faculty/Staff Assistance Program
is providing workshops on stress management and semimonthly support
groups for workers faced with job loss. However, displaced employees
and their families have not been the only ones affected by the staffing
“When you have this turmoil, people are really under stress,”
Burger said. “We’ve been having stress-management workshops
internally to try to deal with this. People are trying to do the best
they can, and we appreciate it.”
In the workshops and support groups, co-workers and supervisors of departing
employees have said that saying goodbye to longtime colleagues who have
been reassigned or terminated has been taking an emotional toll on them
as well, said Terrry Jobin, director of the Faculty/Staff Assistance