President Schill outlines plans for $11M in budget cuts

Emailed to the campus today:

Dear colleagues,

On March 5, I wrote to let you know that the University of Oregon’s budget situation is becoming more challenging and it is imperative we move forward with efforts to reduce the UO’s annual operating costs. Since then, I have met with a variety of campus stakeholders to receive advice and guidance. Those meetings have been extremely useful in shaping our next steps, including helping identify priorities and principles to guide us. We all have a shared goal of ensuring the institution maintains a strong upward trajectory even as we grapple with state funding challenges and decreases in international enrollment.

Based on analysis by Vice President for Finance and Administration Jamie Moffitt and her team, we must reduce about $11 million in annual recurring expenditures from the education and general budget. I have provided the provost and vice presidents with cost-reduction goals for their units and asked them to develop plans for achieving those savings. We will prioritize our core academic and research activities; therefore, I have set higher savings targets for administrative units than I have for schools and colleges. Administrative functions will be subject to a 3 percent budget reduction, and decreases for schools and colleges will be in aggregate no more than 2.5 percent.  The provost’s office will do everything possible to ensure that the changes in our schools and colleges have as little negative impact as possible on academic activities and programs, including career faculty and staff.

Each vice president will have discretion for how best to deliver savings within their units, but I have asked them to consider some guiding principles and priorities, including:

  • AFFORDABILITY – We must not step back from our commitment to making the UO accessible to first generation, underrepresented and lower-income students. We will shield PathwayOregon and Diversity Excellence Scholarships from cuts.
  • STUDENT SUCCESS – To the fullest extent possible, units across campus should prioritize funding for efforts that support student success programs. Ensuring that we provide students with tutoring, mentoring, and advising are at the core of a great educational institution. Ultimately, this will help us to maintain affordability by enabling students to persist and graduate on time. We will also protect our student success investments in Tykeson Hall and the new advisors that are being hired to bring our student-to-advisor ratio to the national average
  • CAMPUS SAFETY – We will protect our law enforcement and Title IX (prevention and enforcement) initiatives from budget cuts, because we must provide a safe campus environment for students, faculty, staff and the broader community. Related programs and positions should be prioritized by individual units as they contemplate budget-reduction plans.
  • REVENUE GENERATION – Initiatives and programs that generate revenue should be priorities that vice presidents weigh in their budget-reduction considerations. For this reason, front-line fundraisers and student recruiters will be protected.  In addition, programs and efforts that support enrollment growth goals should be similarly prioritized.

Given that nearly 80 percent of our education and general fund budget pays salaries, it is impossible to achieve budget savings without impacting jobs. The UO already runs a very lean operation after decades of state disinvestment, and our staffing levels are below most of our peer institutions nationally. That means that many of our units will have to consider difficult decisions that may impact the level of service provided to the campus community. In some cases, we may need to stop doing things that are not aligned with the priorities I have identified or the UO’s teaching, research and service mission.

I will meet with and review the provost and vice presidents’ planned budget reductions. While I am not going to mandate a hiring freeze, to the extent reasonable, I have asked vice presidents to consider whether savings can be achieved by leaving open positions vacant or through attrition. In cases where it is necessary to move forward with workforce reductions, plans must be reviewed and approved by human resources and the general counsel. In close coordination with human resources professionals across campus, we will diligently work to ensure that colleagues who are impacted by budget reductions are offered a full range of support services and treated with the utmost dignity and respect.

We are entering a challenging period, but the hurdles we face are not insurmountable. We will continue to forcefully make the case in Salem that the state’s public higher education system needs a consistent and stable funding model that does not continually look to Oregon’s students and families to fill gaps in public support. The UO will continue to pursue a growth strategy that seeks to stabilize revenue swings by carefully and modestly increasing nonresident undergraduate enrollment over the next few years. And we will continue to leverage donor support to invest in academic initiatives – such as the Knight Campus, the Presidential Science Initiative and the humanities fellowship program – that expand and strengthen our world class academic and research programs. By working together, the UO can and will come out of these budget challenges stronger and with a clear focus on our very bright shared future.

I thank each and every one of you for all you do to make the University of Oregon a special place.

Sincerely, President Michael H. Schill, President and Professor of Law

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27 Responses to President Schill outlines plans for $11M in budget cuts

  1. thedude says:

    “In some cases, we may need to stop doing things that are not aligned with the priorities I have identified or the UO’s teaching, research and service mission.”

    Athletics anyone?

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  2. Sun Tzu says:

    Deja vu all over again. As someone who has been here since the mid 80s, I can attest to hearing this false alarm from every President starting with Myles Brand. “Batten down the hatches, tighten our belts, shared sacrifices” yada yada yada every few years. Meanwhile senior administrators raise their own salaries and hire more underlings. When will the amazing, dedicated and incredibly hard-working members of this institution realize they are getting screwed yet again by yet another administration whose interest is personal gain and even more central control? Enough is enough. Time to strike until our demands are met.

    Here are our demands:
    1. No cuts to ANY staff members directly involved in the primary teaching or research mission of the University. That includes ALL TTF. NTTF, researchers, GTFs and departmental OAs.
    2. No cuts to any classified staff. Without them, the University ceases to exist.
    3. Immediate 10% cuts to the budgets of the Deans, VPs and Senior Administrators. And 10% salary cuts to all Deans and VPs or above.
    4. Immediate transfer of $10M from athletics to academics. Shouldn’t be a problem cutting a few football and basketball coaches.
    5. Shift 10% of Phil Knight’s Knight Campus gift to the main campus (i.e., $5M). Without the main campus, there will not be a Knight Campus for Accelerated Spending.

    These 5 items can and should be implemented today. If not, the Schill is disingenuous about saving the core of the University.

    This is the tipping point. There won’t be another chance. Shut the fucking enterprise down until the administration gets on board. They won’t respond to anything less. Why? Because they just don’t care about the University or its employees. And they couldn’t give a rat’s arse about the students.

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    • uomatters says:

      Your 5 point plan is unrealistic and will be ignored for at least 5 obvious reasons.

      My 1 point plan to cut baseball, on the other hand, is entirely pragmatic. While it would be an exaggeration to say that no one gives a shit about Duck baseball, it only brings in $275K in ticket revenue. It costs us $2,622,553 – and that is the lowball estimate from Eric Roedl’s liars budget at https://static.goducks.com/custompages/pages/athlfin/FY19Budget.pdf.

      I’m no economist, but no neoliberal university president with a decent respect for the opinions of humankind, as expressed through the free market in entertainment services, can justify burning dollar bills at this speed.

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      • Anonymous says:

        Although people will claim this is impossible, I actually think Sun Tzu’s point 5 is quite relevant. I mean if this can’t be done, than how can one keep saying that the KC is part of the UO …

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        • uomatters says:

          There’s a gift letter from Uncle Phil specifying how his $500,000,000 will be spent. While President Schill has ignored public records requests for it, I’d be shocked if it didn’t restrict use of the funds to the Knight Campus. Hell, I wouldn’t give $1,000 to SAIL without insisting it be used for SAIL.

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          • Dog says:

            yes I am aware of all of this
            but this is like raiding then endowment for fiscal emergencies

            likely we will lay people off instead of getting a short term
            cash flow

            that’s just wrong, in my view

            Also technically the KC is part of the UO so I don’t see how that explicit of restriction applies wholesale in this case

            But I don’t understand much these days

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    • Classified, Not Stupid says:

      I can’t thumbs up this *enough*!

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  3. Eternal Skeptic says:

    At a pathetic minimum, shouldn’t the people whose literal job at UO is to be prepared for and avoid fiscal problems that rise to this level be given the first pink slips?

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    • uomatters says:

      Yes. I support your call to fire Brad Shelton. This isn’t economagic, it’s just extrapolating the consequences of well established trends. Obviously that’s too much for him.

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      • thedude says:

        He’s like the average financial planner on wall street. When things go great, he takes all the credit. When they go badly, its just the market….

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      • Conflict of interest says:

        Why is Brad Shelton still part of the highest levels of UO leadership? He is a holdover form the pathetic tenure of Kimberly Espy. He was nothing but a patsy for that disaster…a shallow bean counter who’s never even held a real grant and doesn’t understand the mechanics of research financing. It’s an embarrassment when an institution can’t recognize shitty leadership.

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    • Hippo says:

      I guess “Be excellent, bitches” applies only to faculty.

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  4. So what? says:

    I don’t see why this would be considered a “false alarm”. It is entirely natural for any enterprise to have years of growth followed by years of contraction. Why should anyone be surprised when this happens to us? Why should our institution be any different? As far as I know, cyclical changes never happen and the trend is always positive only in certain socialist paradises.

    In good years we got faculty lines, refurbished environments and some decent pay raises. In bad years, we get some job cuts, little or no wage growth, and so on. While we obviously must call for shared sacrifices from JH, I think the proposals offered by Prez are decent starting points.

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    • OMA says:

      I believe Sun is saying that if you have been here long enough you will see a pattern where the Administration/board goes on a spending spree, handing out Admin raises, start/implement dubious pet projects, hire staff and VP’s to offload their work on, and funding discretionary budgets (slush funds for cars, houses, mahogany office upgrades, upgrades, junkets to exotic places and bowl games, etc.) clearing and zeroing any funds that may have been surplus. Then a few months later, when it is time to ask the state for money–which is also about the time to bargain for raises–the well is not only dry but but there is a water tanker which was also tapped dry, and a pretty rough lot of miscreants are demanding their payment with interest…. Not to mention that when the cuts do come to the Admin/Executive side of the house, they can usually absorb most of the cuts by “cutting” unfilled positions, another perk of setting the spending (and does anyone know where the money for unfilled positions goes when they just sit on the books year over year).

      Sure the well may really be dry this time, but it really is like clockwork. UOM probably has it well documented here.

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      • Coincidence? says:

        Well and UO is entering bargaining with SEIU and GTFF. Gee wonder if there is any connection

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      • Classified, Not Stupid says:

        Yes, I do know where budgeted $ in unfilled positions goes — the use of those funds is decided by whomever is in charge of the budget the positions are a part of.

        For example, if the English department, and I have an unfilled position2…. wait. Let’s go for the much better paid positions…

        If the IS (Imaginary Science) department has two faculty retire, the $ budgeted money they would have been paid is “salary savings”. Cool. I, the IS department head, can spend that salary savings as I see fit. Heck, I even could by a totally cool top of the line color printer for my five year old to print out their drawings at home!

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        • Classified, Not Stupid says:

          (Sorry about the typing mistakes, definitely time for new spectacles).

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  5. honest Uncle Bernie says:

    Here’s my take on this situation. The usual rather simplistic but, I hope, essentially accurate picture. Please note: it relies not at all on considerations of athletics, or the Knight Campus, or other things that might be considered extraneous. If I am wrong, let’s hear why:

    “we must reduce about $11 million in annual recurring expenditures from the education and general budget. ”

    First, a question. Is this an $11 million deficit before or after expected resignations, retirements, etc.?

    If before, the problem should be relatively easy to deal with. About 4% of staff quit each year? The payroll budget is about $400 million. So there’s $16 million for next year, more or less. So the deficit can basically be covered through attrition. With recent enrollment drops, this shouldn’t be so hard.

    If after, i.e. this year’s resignations already taken into account in coming up with that $11 million, then it is harder, but the same principle, i.e. attrition can cover it, applies next year.

    So it seems to me the problem is exaggerated. I think the Admin is using it to (1) further centralize control and priorities; (2) use for bargaining with the various unions; (3) extract more money from the Legislature; (4) possibly, to help the Governor campaign for a business tax. If so, will be seen as a mistake if voters rescind in an initiative, as I think likely.

    By the way, there seems, from Schill’s email, to be a further emphasis on “student success” (advisors, counselors, etc.) and away from academics. An example of (1) in paragraph above.

    That’s it. As I said, simpleminded, but I think, essentially accurate. No million dollar salary needed, or $300K, just a bit of playing with a few key numbers. If not on the mark, let’s hear why.

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    • rebuttal says:

      I like where you’re coming from, but I guess the obvious rebuttals are: 1) where’s your 4% figure coming from and 2) when someone quits, there’s often a real need for a replacement (imagine all your departmental staff quit). Put another way, reducing the budget through the randomness of who happens to leave/retire is not the optimal way to cut budget.

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    • Sun Tzu says:

      Not such a great idea HUB. The cumulative staff losses have taken a serious long-term toll on functional efficiency. Example: my department has seen an 90% rise in undergrad majors and a 50% increase in TTF faculty in the past 30 years. In that time, our department office staff has gone from 8 to 4 full time employees (1 OA and 3 classified). These are incredibly hard working employees who are stretched to max yet continue to do their jobs with dignity and good cheer. They frequently come into work early or on the occasional Saturday to catch up. Should we expect our lowest paid employees as a group and as individuals to again shoulder the consequence of this latest financial “crisis”?

      A true community would never permit the poorest among us to take it on the chin again while remaining silent about the outrageous raises continually granted to overpaid JH administrators and athletic coaches. Or allow a single donor to dictate how the university should be run or its direction.

      The current situation cries out for change. We have a choice to make: take a stand now or accept that we will be a mediocre institution run for and by administrators who by their actions have shown repeatedly they do not care about the mission or the long term future of our University. We, not our administrators, are the heart and soul of the University. What kind of University we will have is up to us, not them. The choice is ours to make. Are you listening Senate and Union leaders?

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    • honest Uncle Bernie says:

      Thanks for comments. See my response below to a later post.

      The 4% attrition rate a guesstimate based on my own experience, an admin source tells me it is on the mark.

      Sun Tzu — I hope clear that I’m trying to help protect the “little people” — you know as well as I tenure-track are safe, so are top admin, and Schill has announced other protected classes — leaves NTTF, classified, unprotected OA’s — no?

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  6. Hey President Schill says:

    You got a Board of Trustees, and the deal for that was you now need to shut the fuck up about Salem and turn your attention back to those rich people sitting at your own table.

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  7. Anonymous says:

    Sent on behalf of Missy Matella**

    Dear Colleagues,

    Earlier this week, vice presidents, deans, and vice provosts received guidance for the budget reduction process underway across the university. As discussions begin to occur at the unit level, I would like to share a few key principles regarding staffing reductions that may be part of the larger budget reduction plan and a timeline to guide decision making:

    · Proposed staffing reductions follow an approval process.
    University Human Resources (HR), in coordination with the Office of General Counsel (OCG), needs to carefully evaluate any plans for layoffs, reductions, reassignments, or reorganizations to ensure equal treatment for all of our employees and that the proper processes are followed. The evaluation process reviews the underlying data as well as the set criteria used in determining how and why to make certain cuts or reductions. Given that this review is required, there should be no discussion with potentially impacted employees before HR provides approval.

    · Layoffs, reductions, reassignments, and reorganizations follow established procedures.
    In addition to the review-approval process, layoffs, reductions, reassignments, and reorganizations all require certain procedural steps:

    o For OAs, those steps are outlined in the OA separation procedures and relevant employee and labor relations guidance as well as talent acquisition guidance.

    o For SEIU employees, those processes are outlined in the collective bargaining agreement.

    o For NTTF, those processes are provided on the provost’s website and in the United Academics collective bargaining agreement.

    · The following timeline with deadlines will guide the staffing reduction process:
    Please note that the career non-tenure track faculty (NTTF) non-renewal review process deadlines for FY19 have not changed. For more information about that process, please visit the provost’s website.

    March 19: Budget reduction guidelines issued to vice presidents and deans.

    March 20-April 5: Meetings with VPs and Deans to discuss strategies and guidelines.

    April 30: Provost and VPs submit budget reduction proposals to the president.

    Planned staffing reductions (OAs and SEIU employees) submitted to HR for review.

    The submission to HR should include all planned layoffs, staff reductions, reassignments, and reorganizations and process documents. If the applied criteria is not included in the process documents, it needs to be submitted separately. [Guidance for OA layoffs is available on the HR website; For SEIU employees, refer to article 48 of the CBA]

    May 1-15: President meets with provost and VPs to review proposed budget cuts.

    May 1-30: HR, in coordination with general counsel, evaluates unit/department proposals.

    June 3: Approved OA and SEIU employee layoffs, reductions, reassignments, and reorganizations provided to VPs and deans.

    June 3-14: HR provides guidance and consultation for notifying affected employees.

    June 17-21: Notifications to impacted OAs and SEIU employees begin with required notice provided [OAs—three months; SEIU—at least one month].

    · Carefully consider communication with employees.

    It is understandable that employees will be anxious and eager for more information. You can offer support by acknowledging and listening to their concerns. Remind employees that the university is following established process and procedures for staffing reductions and share the timeline and deadlines as appropriate. Please reassure employees that more information will be shared as it becomes available.

    It is imperative that managers do not discuss specific staffing reduction plans with any employees. Please allow us to complete the process outlined above so that information accurately reflects the approved actions rather than plans under review.

    Human Resources and the Employee and Labor Relations Team are here to support unit leadership, supervisors, HR partners, and employees as we navigate this budget reduction initiative. Please do not hesitate to contact me or a member of my team should you need anything throughout this difficult process.

    Best regards,

    Missy Matella
    Senior Director, Employee and Labor Relations

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    • honest Uncle Bernie says:

      Please see my post above. Why are layoffs necessary? It has not been explained. A deficit of about 2% of the “general fund.” Annual personnel attrition way more than covers this. I am talking big picture budget — not failing to replace essential people.

      People, ask for answers!

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      • NOT an economist says:

        I also have to wonder whether the blended OPE, which increases the permanent budget for employees, is somehow at play here. Especially where we are paying for sick leave that may never be taken. Vacation balances I know were liabilities, but not sick. Some/many faculty have hundreds of hours of sick leave, so we are paying for it, but they don’t need to take it. . .
        Thoughts? (and prayers)

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        • New Year Cat says:

          “OAs—three months; SEIU—at least one month”. And here we see the inherent classism at work. Why is it presumed OAs need 3 months to find work while classified staff only require a month to deal with the loss of a job they may have held for decades, and to find a job in the area (assuming they have house, kids in school, etc)? That’s something SEIU should try to change in the contract this year! Incidentally the contract says “an employee shall be given written notice of layoff at least thirty calendar days before the effective date” with wriggle room to whittle it down to only 15 if necessary. There is nothing in there that forbids a longer period of notice to allow people to try to reorganize their lives in a less-panicked tme frame. Good luck, classified staff…..you are essential to feed the students during snow storms and clear the walkways of ice and snow, and your presence allows the UO to operate, but you’re not treated that way.

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