March 28, 2002

University Reviews Staffing Levels

Print More

Over four months after the University-wide hiring freeze on all non-academic, non-student staff commenced, University officials cannot say when the freeze will be rescinded. The Workforce Planning Team, created in conjunction with the implementation of the hiring freeze, continues to review staff efficiency in an effort to relieve unnecessary financial strain on the University.

The Workforce Planning Team is, “looking at overall employee trends in the University, what has taken place over the last decade or so, where expansion and contraction is taking place,” said Henrik N. Dullea ’61, vice president for University relations.

The Workforce Planning Team is chaired by Carolyn Ainslie, vice president for budget and planning and includes Philip E. Lewis, the Harold Tanner Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, Susan Henry, the Ronald P. Lynch Dean of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS) and Robert Swieringa, the Anne and Elmer Lindseth Dean of the Johnson Graduate School of Management as well as vice provost Walter Cohen, Ingeborg Reichenbach, vice president for alumni affairs and development and Paul Streeter, the senior project director.

The Team ultimately reports to President Hunter R. Rawlings III, Provost Biddy (Carolyn A.) Martin and Harold D. Craft, Jr., vice president for administration and University chief financial officer.

In an official statement released in January, Ainslie listed the objectives of the committee which are, “to define clearly the roles, responsibilities, standards of performance and accountabilities within each major administrative area and function throughout the University, to realize substantial and ongoing financial savings as well as increased effectiveness and efficiency in support services across campus and to improve competitive market-pay positions for staff.”

To fulfill these objectives, the Workforce Planning Team plans to review five major functional areas including human resources, financial management, alumni affairs and development, student services and information technology and facilities.

“Staffing objectives are likely to vary by functional area, as necessary to support the overall mission of the University. However, it is clear that there are significant budget pressures facing the University. They challenge us to take a hard look at how non-academic support functions are performed, in an effort to reduce the resource commitment in these areas,” Ainslie said.

The first of the review subcommittees is well underway. The subcommittee looking into human resources — chaired by Mary Opperman, vice president of the office of human resources — is focusing on the actions of human relations in both central administration and in the college administrative units, according to Dullea. Ainslie’s statement said that this review will be completed no later than June 30, 2002.

A subcommittee focusing on financial management — chaired by Joanne DeStefano, vice president for financial affairs and University controller — and another reviewing alumni affairs and development — chaired by Reichenbach — have also begun their reviews which should be completed by this fall.

“The Workforce [Planning] Team represents an attempt to be more efficient, beginning to examine administration to see where we have more layers than we need… duplication of jobs,” Henry said.

CALS will be facing a $4 million deficit in the coming year, according to Henry. The state is giving CALS a flat budget — a budget with no increase from last year despite a number of expenses mandated to rise, including a number of pay increases to faculty and staff.

Consequently, Henry added, “we have to figure out ways of cutting budgets.”

Throughout the University, departments have been shifting staff members to work around the hiring freeze and other budget constraints.

CALS has already exercised this rearrangement of administrative staff when faced with vacancies that could not be filled because of the hiring freeze, according to Henry.

“Since we were not allowed to hire new people, we lost a couple of staff members when [other] employees left [resulting in] shortages of staff,” Henry said. She proposed a possible solution, “staff could be rearranged to fill openings.”

Henry described one situation in which a staff member who expressed that she felt underutilized was subsequently reassigned duties left by the loss of other staff.

“Now we have one employee where we had two before, the best possible outcome,” Henry said. “We’ll do everything we can for long-term employment where we can but we can’t make any guarantees. Undoubtedly, there will be some job losses.”

The University has approximately 9,500 employees (including faculty) although this number fluctuates, according to Dullea. 72 percent of these employees fall into the category of non-academic, non-student staff.

“There will be exemptions from the freeze, done on a case by case basis. Particular attention is given to positions related to safety and health and also where there are either contractual obligations or clear external funding or where functions cannot be performed by existing staff,” Dullea said.

To earn an exemption, one must submit an appeal to the overseeing vice president or college dean. If the appeal passes this stage, a committee comprised of Rawlings, Martin and Craft then decide if an exception can be made.

According to Dullea, the University has purposely chosen the hiring freeze — which focuses on potential employees yet to be hired — in an effort to make the University more efficient and to avoid layoffs.

“We’ve tried to avoid layoffs and that’s why this alternative approach concentrates on attrition,” Dullea said.

In an interview yesterday, Rawlings echoed Dullea’s statement.

“We’re not planning layoffs. What we are doing is planning a very rigorous study of employment. The hiring freeze is a short-term way of dealing with this,” he said. “[If] someone retires or leaves town, [and] you don’t fill that position it isn’t a layoff. Save a position, save money but we haven’t laid anybody off, we haven’t forced anybody out of a job.”

While Rawlings said that plans for layoffs are not currently in place, he did not discount the possibility of them in the future.

Archived article by Laura Rowntree