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IPFW discusses layoffs, balancing budget

Layoffs may be over for IPFW, but hard cuts could continue as the university moves forward with balancing its budget.

Top administrators, including Chancellor Vicky Carwein, conducted several meetings throughout the day Wednesday for faculty, staff and students to hear more about the administration's budget-cutting process and to ask questions. The IPFW Faculty Senate also had a special meeting to hear the presentation.

The university budget plan addresses an $8.4 million shortfall, half of which is due to declining enrollment, Carwein said during a presentation. Most of the remaining deficit can be attributed to items not included in the budget that were previously covered by the university's cash balance at the end of the year. Without growing enrollment IPFW will no longer have the cash to sustain many of those items, Carwein said.

The result is layoff notices for 18 people and the elimination of about 24 positions, not including vacant teaching positions that will go unfilled.

"I hope you will see that not one department bears the percentage of cuts," Carwein said. "Certainly everyone has been impacted."

Some of the unbudgeted expenses were cut altogether, while others became reoccurring expenses IPFW will commit to funding. Fringe benefits, utilities, salaries for employees working over the summer session and other areas will be cut as well.

While the 42 reduced or eliminated positions were non-teaching, vacant teaching positions will remain unfilled as part of the budget reduction process. This year, academic affairs had 428 teaching positions, but next year is projected to have 414.

Walt Branson, vice chancellor for financial affairs, said the cuts weren't strategic and were mostly based on openings. The College of Arts and Sciences had the most openings and its teaching staff was reduced from 197 teaching positions this year to 188 projected for next year. Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs Steve Sarratore said that some open teaching positions will be filled for next year and deciding which positions to fill has been a strategic process. He said nine searches for tenure-track teaching positions will be conducted for the coming year.

The administration is also considering more cuts moving forward including discontinuing child care services and outsourcing its police force.

Discontinuing child care services was one cut that many faculty members opposed, including Chris Erickson, associate professor of history. She said she has heard some students say they may have to drop out of school without the child care now provided by IPFW.

"I'm gravely concerned about this," Erickson said, during one meeting.

The accredited center specifically serves infants and toddlers, and this type of center is rare in the area, said George McClellan, vice chancellor for student affairs. The center currently serves about 55 children of IPFW faculty and students and 67 children from the community. The center also maintains a waiting list.

"We are working as hard as we can to try to find creative answers because this is an important service," McClellan said.

During the Faculty Senate's special meeting for the presentation, Ann Livschiz, a Faculty Senate member and associate professor in the history department, proposed a resolution that called on the administration to use the university's cash reserves to maintain jobs and allow time for more faculty input to ensure a more strategic process.

She said the process has been "extremely unstrategic," and the university used an "inhumane" way to notify the IPFW community of layoffs. Many of the cuts and unfilled positions undermine faculty members' ability to carry out their academic mission, she said.

Branson defended the process and said the feedback from faculty leaders and department deans has indicated the administration is headed in the right direction. He also said there are plans to draw about $1 million from reserves to fill some teaching positions.

Peter Dragnev, speaker for Purdue faculty said that cuts are difficult but necessary.

"We have to realize that difficult decisions have to be made," he said.

Branson said the administration didn't want to deplete more of its reserves because IPFW doesn't know what its state funding will be or what enrollment numbers will be in the fall. The university still needs approval from the Purdue University Board of Trustees to increase tuition and fees and not to increase salaries for next year.

Members of the Faculty Senate were divided on the resolution, approving it 19-11.The resolution provides the administration with the Faculty Senate's position but doesn't require action from the administration.

Another complaint brought up during one meeting was the conflicting interests of cutting positions and services while the university tries to increase enrollment and retain and graduate more students. Some state funding is now tied to certain metrics like graduation rates.

sarah.janssen@jg.net

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