Hiring Freeze Crisis Hits Home for BU: PASSHE’s Decision Leaves Empty Positions While Funding Cuts Take a Toll on the University

By Brendan Schaller/”The Voice” Managing Editor 

The current economic situation spreading across the globe has begun to create noticeable harm on the administration of Bloomsburg University as the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education has announced a hiring freeze leaving some positions vacant.

In a Dec. 23 press release from BU’s Office of Communications, it was announced that during the current fiscal year, which runs from July 1, 2008, to June 30, 2009, six of seven open management positions at BU will not be filled as part of “belt-tightening efforts related to the continuation economic crisis in the commonwealth.”

This press release also stated that Chancellor of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, John Cavanaugh, announced Dec. 19 that throughout the next six months, 128 positions in the chancellor’s office and in the 14 PASSHE universities will not be filled.

In addition to this freeze on hiring, the salaries of approximately 1,500 managers, administrators and other non-union employees across the System will be frozen throughout the same six-month period, said the press release.

At BU, one affected position is the dean of the College of Business, a position which has been vacant since September.

The current interim dean of the College of Business, Dennis Gehris, who has served since last fall, will continue as interim dean, possibly through the 2009-2010 school year, said President Dr. David Soltz, in the press release.

Soltz said that despite the hiring freeze, additional faculty necessary to meet students’ classroom needs, as well as other vital positions, may still be hired.

BU’s plans to recruit a vice president for University Advancement, which he called “a critical revenue-generating position in this time of economic uncertainty,” will proceed, said Soltz. According to Soltz, the position should be filled sometime this summer.

The vice president for University Advancement would be in charge of certain aspects of University communications, alumni affairs, development and the BU foundation. Development and the BU foundation include fundraising for the University, more specifically for scholarships, capital improvements and other financial needs of BU.

According to the press release, additional positions that will remain vacant include BU’s Web and portal manager, director of library sciences and director of planning assessment.

The press release attributes Chancellor Cavanaugh as saying, “this action is necessary in light of current economic conditions facing both PASSHE and the commonwealth. Our first priority is to ensure our students continue to receive the high-quality education they expect and deserve.”

In related financial measures, the press release notes that this past October, the PASSHE Board of Governors agreed to Gov. Ed Rendell’s request to return $22 million of state funding due to a $1.6 billion budget shortfall for the state. This $22 million is 4.25 percent of the near $520 million PASSHE expected to receive in the 2008-09 school year.

According to a press release on the PASSHE website, in order to account for this $22 million, each of the fourteen PASSHE universities and the Office of the Chancellor will be forced to make additional budget cuts throughout the year.

The PASSHE press release also states that about one-third of the state’s annual operating budget is provided by state funding. The rest of the operating budget is paid for through tuition and housing costs.

Although the amount of state funding has significantly decreased in the past two decades, the System has been able to keep raising tuition and housing rates to a minimum.  The press release states that in the past four years the System has kept annual increases in tuition under the rate of inflation, claiming no other public university system in the national can say the same.

However, the press release says nothing about increases in housing costs, as well as other required fees paid each semester by students.

Next year’s state funding will not be determined until after a state budget decision to be made sometime this summer.

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