St. Cloud State drops 26 layoff notices on profs in single day

A tough week for the un-tenured at St. Cloud State
A tough week for the un-tenured at St. Cloud State
Photo: akaalias

It's been a rough past week for a couple dozen faculty members at St. Cloud State University. In order to balance a stiff budget and meet union deadlines, the college sent out 26 layoff notices on the same day late last week to some unfortunate non-tenured staffers.

The layoffs are part of the state college's efforts to dig itself out of $13 million hole, according to the St. Cloud Times. Through the layoffs and retirement, the school plans to shed between 80-90 positions by the start of the upcoming school year.

Though the notices went out all at once, how to deal with a bad budget forecast has been a topic of discussion for much longer, says St. Cloud State spokesman Michael King.

"It's been discussed," says King. "I don't think anyone's comfortable when we're talking about losing these positions, but I think everyone has understood where we stand in terms of the budget and finances."

School administrators hope they'll be able to take back some of the layoff notices. Union rules state that the college has to give the bad news by Aug. 1 (this Sunday), which is why the notices couldn't be spread thinner. The school can still annul the notices, though, if it ends up squeezing more faculty out through retirement.

The layoffs come from six different colleges within St. Cloud State: College of Education, College of Business, Science and Engineering, Fine Arts and Humanities ,Social Sciences and Learning Resources & Technology Services.

Here's a letter from St. Cloud State President Earl H. Potter III sent out Wednesday to staff and students in attempt to lighten the blow:

To the campus community:

As we have gone about our budget planning process for FY '12 which starts July 1, 2011, we informed the campus community that we will use remedies at our disposal to try to minimize the impact of potential retrenchment, including attrition and the Board Early Separation Incentives (BESI). Yet, we continue to face a possible $13.7 million budget reduction based on the best information available now which indicates the state's deficit could range between $5 and $6 billion.

Know that this budget planning, Strategic Program Appraisal and reorganization, while certainly necessary for the University, is made more challenging by our funding issues. We were disappointed late last week to distribute letters to 26 probationary faculty members telling them that their appointments will end next academic year. According to contract, notification had to be made by August 1. We thank these valued faculty members for their service. Our budget situation made this action necessary.

Initially, at Meet and Confer on July 22, we shared with the IFO a list of 29 positions that would be eliminated. Upon further review, the final list will reflect 26 probationary faculty members receiving notices. The IFO has been informed accordingly.

Notices to probationary faculty, based on last spring's Strategic Program Appraisal, will save slightly more than $2 million and include faculty members in some of the 26 programs targeted for elimination. Others are in departments which may have some capacity based on current and future enrollments. The decisions also were made using the criteria of centrality to mission and alignment to strategic priorities; student demand; reduction in number of departments offering similar programs with substantial disciplinary overlap consistent with recommendations regarding consolidation and reorganization; program connectedness and impact on other programs and excess capacity and current cost structure comparisons.

Additional retrenchment notices for tenured faculty may be required after ending fixed-term, probationary and departures due to attrition and BESI, to reach a goal of eliminating a total of 80-90 faculty lines. Notices will come later based on timelines spelled out in the contracts. Other layoff notices will be made consistent with the requirements of the various bargaining units this fall and upcoming spring.

In the next phase as we work to resolve our budgetary constraints, we will notify eligible faculty members in specific units who qualify for the Board Early Separation Incentives (BESI) and who have the opportunity to request consideration.

As we continue our budget planning, there remains considerable uncertainty. The retrenchment decisions and now the BESI offering are made with the best possible information at this time and are made to ensure the University's flexibility in meeting its financial obligations for FY '12.

As we approach a new school year, we seek your assistance as we work through the sometimes daunting financial picture we face. I want to thank all those who have been involved in the hard work done over the summer to prepare ideas for discussion when faculty and students return for the fall semester. And, thank you to each of you for your continued dedication to the enterprise that provides an outstanding education for our students.

Earl H. Potter III


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