CORVALLIS, Ore. – By a margin of 86-17, the Oregon State University Faculty Senate voted Thursday to support a furlough program for faculty that will help OSU cope with millions of dollars in budget cuts brought on by the national economic downturn and subsequent reductions this year in state funding.
While not binding, the vote will help OSU President Ed Ray in determining how to implement the furlough program. Ray has promised to be guided by the “sense of the Faculty Senate” in making implementation decisions, a point he underscored at Thursday’s meeting.
Many senators saw the vote as important means of showing solidarity with union-represented “classified” employees of OSU, who through their collective bargaining agreement accepted pay reductions earlier this year, and of sending a message to the state Legislature that faculty are doing their part to help balance the bottom line.
“In the best traditions of OSU, faculty senators spoke out repeatedly on the theme that we’re all in this together,” said OSU President Ed Ray. “As in the Great Depression, when faculty here accepted pay cuts and raised money to help university employees in serious need, OSU always manages to pull together in tough times and to make hard decisions with integrity as a community. This was a particularly hard one, and as such, speaks volumes about the values that define this university.
“I asked for a sense of the faculty for guidance because I genuinely believe in shared governance and because I know there are colleagues dealing with difficult financial circumstances. I wanted to give them a chance to tell me if this is just too hard or not. This will be hard, but they want to help others.”
Senate President Paul Doescher called the vote “a wonderful testament to shared governance. I don’t think any other campus in the state of Oregon would have this degree of dialogue on an issue like this,” reports today’s Daily Barometer, the campus newspaper of OSU.
Upon implementation in January, the furlough program is expected to save OSU approximately $1.7 million in general fund expenses and an additional $700,000 in Statewide Public Service Programs through June 30, the end of the fiscal year. The savings represent a significant contribution toward the 2009-10 $5.4-million shortfall in Education and General funds and $5.9-million shortfall in Statewide Public Service Program funds facing OSU.
Furlough days, which amount to unpaid leave, will be determined based on salary, with some faculty taking as few as two days and others taking as many as six through the remainder of the fiscal year. Faculty supported entirely by grant funding will not be included in the program, and Ray promised to address other special populations within the faculty as he looks at “issues around the margins” that may have disproportionate or unacceptable effects on some employees who already face special hardships.
The vote comes on the heels of a national report released this week by the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities showing that two-thirds of public, U.S. universities are undertaking a strategic review of their core activities following 2009 budget cuts. Eighty-five percent of those institutions, like OSU, are reporting decreases in state appropriations for this year.
OSU’s strategic realignment and budget review process is well under way, with the university recently having announced changes to its academic structure intended to support better-informed decisions about the university’s future. The restructuring is providing for conversations between colleges now grouped in academic divisions about departments that might be combined or eliminated, courses that could be shelved and opportunities for collaboration on shared academic initiatives.
“In times such as these, there are no easy answers,” said Ray. “But as we apply the insightful analysis that is such a hallmark of OSU as a research university to our budget situation, we are finding solutions that will enable us to effectively manage through this period and emerge as a university with greater focus and a clear path toward achieving the goals we’ve set for ourselves.”