News Local/State

Cuts Announced At WIU, EIU

Students demonstrating against layoffs at the Western Illinois University Board of Trustees meeting.

Some students demonstrated before the WIU Board of Trustees meeting on Monday. “I’m supporting the teachers. I don’t think any of them should be laid off,” said junior Sara Lane. Rich Egger/Tri-States Public Radio

The Western Illinois University Board of Trustees voted 5-to1 during a special meeting in Macomb Monday to authorize staff reductions for the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2016.  Meanwhile, the president of Eastern Illinois University announced a series of immediate cuts, including the possible imposition of unpaid furloughs and layoffs.

WIU Trustee Approve Staff Cuts For 2017-18

Staff cuts are just one part of Western’s plan for cutting spending by roughly $10 million due to declines in enrollment and state financial support.

The administration said it’s still working to determine how many jobs will be lost and how much money will be saved through staff reductions. President Jack Thomas said he intends to remove tenured faculty from the proposed lay-off list, and he called Monday’s action by the board “just the start” of the process.

“My Leadership Team and I have engaged all members of the University community to offer feedback regarding our fiscal challenges, and we have made decisions with that feedback in mind,” said Thomas. “The decision to lay off members of our University community is not easy.”

Thomas said 59 employees took advantage of an early retirement program offered late last year.  He said that will ultimately save the University $1.5 million per year if some of the positions are not filled.

WIU trustees who supported the staff reduction resolution are Chairman Roger Clawson, Lyneir Cole, Cathy Early, Carolyn Ehlert Fuller, and Yvonne Savala. 

Phil Hare opposed the resolution. “I do not believe this is in the best interest of the university,” Hare said. “I don’t believe this is in the best interests of the faculty and their families.”

Trustee Todd Lester abstained from the vote (he was appointed to the WIU Board on January 15.)

The student representative on the Board, Michael Quigley, was ineligible to vote, but he joined other trustees in calling for pressure on state officials in Springfield.

“We all feel the pain and the hurt,” said Quigley. “I want to encourage people, students especially, to take that pain to Springfield. Take it to your governor, who won’t invest in my future and won’t invest in your future and won’t invest in this area of the economy. We can fight amongst ourselves all day but the real fight is with our governor, who doesn’t care about Western Illinois University.”

But some of those who spoke at the meeting aimed their criticism at the WIU administration, rather than Springfield.

“The president and his administration led us to this moment by failing to stem -- let alone reverse -- enrollment decline, and by failing to retain the students who did enroll,” said Bill Thompson, Chapter President of the University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100.

The meeting lasted more than an hour, even though the staff reduction authorization was the only item on the agenda. 

Immediate Reductions Announced At EIU

In a mass letter to Eastern Illinois University campus community, EIU President David Glassman said the university in Charleston was able to manage expenses without state funding last fall, by relaying on tuition revenue and cash flow reserves. But he says changes are now needed in order to continue make payroll and meet educational goals.

Glassman says EIU will immediately halt all repairs that are not needed for safety, and freeze employee-reimbursed travel with few exceptions that need presidential approval.  The president says if EIU doesn't receive its $40 million appropriation from the state by March, the university will need to ‘temporarily and/or permanently lay off hundreds of non-instructional workers’, and mandate unpaid furlough days for others.  Callbacks would start immediately after EIU starts to receive its state funding.

The state also owes EIU $9 million in MAP grant funding.

“The actions of the budgetary impasse in Springfield are testing our resolve and fortitude to meet the needs of our students,” Glassman wrote. ‘I call upon everyone’s cooperation to remain strong and positive in attitude for our students and our beloved university as we await our lawmakers and governor to authorize state support for public higher education.”