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Non-Tenured Faculty Layoffs at University of Oregon

by Diane Deitz

To save money, the University of Oregon is preparing to trim about 75 jobs from its nontenured faculty, according to United Academics, the labor union representing the faculty.

Plans call for reductions of 25 positions from the College of Arts and Sciences, 25 from the College of Education and 25 from other university units, the union said it has learned.

The 75 faculty cuts are expected to come largely from the ranks of the career nontenured faculty, which today number 934. In addition, the UO so far this year has given layoff notices to four classified employees, and more cuts may be on the way, said Theodora Ko Thompson, president of the UO’s Service Employees International Union.

“I’m holding my breath at this point,” she said.

Classified workers include facilities maintenance and similar categories of work.

Two budgetary forces are underway: The university faces an $8.8 million gap in next year’s budget caused largely by rising pay and retirement benefits; and it is pursuing a goal of hiring more tenured faculty — thereby displacing some jobs for nontenured faculty.

The university is proposing to resolve most of its budget problems for the 2017-2018 school year with tuition increases, including a 10.6 percent increase for in-state students and a 3 percent increase for out-of-state students, according to UO documents.

Big unknown

The UO Board of Trustees will consider the proposed increases at meetings on Thursday and Friday on campus.

“Roughly 80 percent of our educational budget pays salaries of our faculty, staff and administrators,” UO President Michael Schill wrote in a memo to the board. “Therefore, any efforts to cut the budget will inevitably lead to a loss of jobs and pain to our community.”

The university has not released a comprehensive plan for how it will close the $8.8 million budget gap. The proposed faculty cutbacks may be just a start.

UO spokesman Tobin Klinger said the UO has no detailed information to release at this point.

A big unknown is just how much the state Legislature will allocate for education from the state general fund budget.

“As the state budget continues to take shape, plans are being made to adapt to the final fiscal circumstances we ultimately face,” Klinger said.

“Academic units are being asked to look closely at expenses and make sure their available resources are in alignment with expenditures. While there may be a need for more immediate action, there are no details yet to share,” he said.

The UO implements cuts to faculty as contract “nonrenewals,” which have to be delivered to faculty by May 1, according to the United Academics contract. The jobs end with the end of the school year.

Classified employees are legally entitled to 30 days notice before layoff, and those employees with seniority can bump junior employees out of jobs.

The UO has greatly increased its employee count as it has added students. Total headcount is up 21 percent from 2007 to 2016, to the current 6,640. The UO has increased the ranks of so-called officers of administration the fastest, up 29 percent, to 1,410. The category covers non-faculty and non-classified workers, including marketing specialists, public relations workers and general administrators.

Arts department

The faculty cuts are expected to land heavily on the Arts and Administration Department within the School of Architecture and Allied Arts.

The department is largely staffed by nontenured faculty, most of whom have been in their positions for 10, 20 and even 30 years.

The department includes two tenured professors, one assistant professor and 11 nontenured instructors.

The UO is “ ‘nonrenewing’ people who have been here for 20 years or more for a program that doesn’t have enrollment problems,” said Michael Dreiling, president of United Academics faculty union.

The Arts and Administration Department celebrated its 20th anniversary in the 2014-2015 academic year.

The department provides a master’s degree in arts administration to students who go on to direct cultural organizations, such as community and performing arts groups and museums.

Faculty also branched out, over the years, into the subjects of “arts in health care” and “arts in prison.”

In fall 2016, the department added an undergraduate degree in arts administration.

This school year, 25 students enrolled, Dreiling said.

“The UO arts and administration program is already the largest and strongest program of its kind in the western United States,” Director Patricia Lambert said upon the launch of the undergraduate degree.

Shifting resources

Dreiling said the UO is practicing “a spreadsheet approach to management — find places that can be cut, and make those decisions divorced from context,” he said.

The decisions about cuts are largely taking place behind closed doors, Dreiling said.

“This is all about shifting resources away from programs perceived to be either less valuable to that larger vision — or have too many nontenure track faculty in the programs — or it’s part of a restructuring plan,” he said.

Last spring, the UO issued nonrenewal letters to a similar number of faculty — 79.

The nontenured faculty had taken on a lot of the teaching load as the UO increased its student body by one-fifth between 2008 to 2012

Enrollment peaked at 24,600 and has since retreated to 23,600.

State funding

The cuts — and tuition increases — are necessary because the Legislature is providing an essentially flat budget for the state’s seven universities for the coming year.

That means no additional money to cover the increased costs of the universities’ retirement benefits and salaries.

“Only four states in the nation provide less funding per student for higher education than Oregon, which has severely impacted the affordability and accessibility of a college degree in this state,” Schill said in a statement.

The state government is facing budget troubles, and cuts, despite the state’s good economy and increased tax receipts.

“If you’re having cuts like this at a time the economy is doing well, imagine how it’s going to be when the economy tanks,” Dreiling said.

UO EMPLOYEES

2016 count of UO employees. (full-time equivalent in parenthesis)

Administrators: 30 (29); down 20 percent from 2007

Faculty: 2,081 (1,678); up 21 percent from 2007

Officers of administration: 1,410 (1,364); up 29 percent from 2007

Librarians: 51 (50); position not broken out in 2007

Classified: 1,635 (1,582): Up 10 percent from 2007

Total: 6,640 (4,653); Up 21 percent from 2007

2016 FACULTY BREAKDOWN

Tenured: 550 (up 18 percent from 2007)

Tenure track: 207 (up 17 percent from 2007)

Nontenured regular faculty: 934 (up 38 percent from 2007)

Adjunct/visiting: 281 (down 7 percent from 2007)

Retired: 109 (up 30 percent from 2007)

Total: 2,081 (up 20 percent from 2007)

Source: UO Office of Institutional Research

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