November 14, 2001

C.U. Suspends Hiring of New Staff Members

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In response to the economic dip following the Sept. 11 events, President Hunter R. Rawlings III announced yesterday a University-wide hiring freeze.

The University has suspended all non-student and non-academic staff hiring until at least June 30, 2002.

“The national economic downturn and the aftermath of the events of Sept. 11 have sent shock waves throughout our nation and abroad,” Rawlings said. “We are not unmindful of the external forces that have already affected and will continue to affect our work. … The economic slowdown that was already well under way prior to Sept. 11 has had an impact on the size of the University’s endowment.”

According to Rawlings, the 7.8 percent drop in the absolute value of the endowment as of the end of the last fiscal year was the largest decline the University has seen in 20 years. This decrease mirrors the nation-wide downward economic trend, which could increase the need for financial aid and reduce the ability to fund programs on campus.

“Thanks to the prudent payout policy the university has implemented for many years, there is no need for an immediate reduction in the payout level to participating colleges and programs across the campus,” Rawlings said.

Rawlings, however, did state that the sudden drop in tax revenues and the necessary redirection of funds toward public safety, public health and infrastructure redevelopment could negatively affect Cornell in the years to come.

The University will make exceptions in the freeze for positions that are essential to an organization’s function or to safety. In addition, job offers already made will not be retracted.

Rawlings has appointed a Workforce Planning Team to assess the University’s current state of affairs and assist in decision-making. The team of deans and administrators has met three times and will continue to meet throughout the year.

According to Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice provost for University relations, the team was instrumental in issuing yesterday’s memorandum and is making strides toward achieving a more efficient budget.

“The team will be looking at different areas across the colleges to see if we can be as effective as possible with limited resources,” Dullea said.

Susan Henry, the Ronald P. Lynch dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and a member of the Workforce Planning Team, stated in a previous interview with The Sun that to combat a restricted budget CALS would have to turn to areas other than the state for funding.

“In the long term, we can have a good effect in this college by raising money like the endowed colleges,” Henry said. “We anticipate a tight budget until New York City makes a recovery. … We might have to look conservatively at new programs and hiring.”

Despite a limited budget, Rawlings ensured that faculty hiring will be exempted from the freeze. Faculty salary, according to Dullea, will also not be affected, because Cornell wants to “continue to recruit and retain the best possible faculty.”

Dullea also stated that because most of Cornell’s staff hiring is internal, the Ithaca community is not likely to experience a job shortage or other financial rebounds. Although the University is uncertain of how many jobs will be left open, substantial savings are expected.

“We are looking for ways to gain efficiency over time, which presumably means having a smaller staff or getting more productive results from the same number of people,” said Walter Cohen, vice provost and member of the Workforce Planning Team.

According to Cohen, the freeze is only a temporary solution; reorganizing staff positions will in the long run reduce the costs.

With the ebb and flow in the University’s staff hiring processes interrupted, Cornell will be able to catch its financial breath by not filling positions that are voluntarily vacated.

“I think [the freeze] is a real opportunity for all of us to look carefully at what we are doing in our respective areas to see if we can [do things] more efficiently,” Dullea said. “Some things we are doing might not need to be done and might not be as high a priority.”

The Workforce Planning Team anticipates a preliminary solution to some of the University’s present financial issues, but expects progress to emerge slowly, even after the freeze is no longer in effect.

“We are looking toward more difficult economic times because the state government funds us and they are in trouble now, so we will have to be a little more prudent,” said Cohen. “We are not in a crisis, but we are under a bit of pressure. I would predict the freeze will work, but workforce planning is the challenge for the long term.”

Archived article by Rachel Einschlag