Forsee orders UM systemwide hiring freeze

Monday, November 17, 2008 | 4:31 p.m. CST; updated 7:31 p.m. CST, Monday, November 17, 2008

COLUMBIA — After weeks of turbulent economic activity, UM System President Gary Forsee has ordered a systemwide hiring freeze, effective Monday.

The freeze will apply to open positions and searches currently under way and will affect administrative, staff and faculty positions.

“This action will provide us with the optimal flexibility to plan while ensuring that our mission as a university is viewed as part of the solution, not just a cost to the citizens of our state,” Forsee said in a memo sent to faculty and staff on Monday.

Forsee has also asked UM System staff and each campus’ chancellor to review and prioritize every expense “to be sure we can provide resources for the future,” he said in the memo.

Forsee said the UM System must be prepared to be flexible with those resources to accommodate one of its highest priorities – maintaining competitive faculty and staff salaries.

“We also want to protect the quality of the student experience in light of unprecedented enrollment growth and ensure that new and existing programs are properly supported,” Forsee said.

The hiring freeze is not a response to any issues with the system’s current budget, said Betsy Rodriguez, UM System vice president for human resources.

Instead, it’s a “prudent measure” to prepare the four campuses for potentially difficult economic times, particularly with uncertainty as to what could happen with the system’s two sources of revenue, tuition and state funding, Rodriguez said.

Earlier this year, about 50 vacant positions were re-opened and released to MU deans.

Michael O’Brien, dean of MU’s College of Arts and Science, had anticipated hiring 20 people this year; he has now suspended those searches and said the college will simply move forward as is.

But he said the college is adequately staffed to offer the classes already on the spring 2009 – and possibly the fall 2009 – course list.

Thomas Phillips, MU Faculty Council chair and a professor in the biological sciences department, said he hopes the freeze will be at least partially unfrozen to allow for hiring in critical areas, such as capstone and writing-intensive courses.

“It’s important that we don’t dilute the MU experience,” he said. “We don’t want to let quality suffer, (and) I’m afraid it’s going to be very difficult (to maintain quality) if we don’t do some hiring in key areas.”

Phillips said that being able to hire faculty and staff will become increasingly important as this year’s freshman class begins taking upper-level classes — many of which are smaller than introductory classes. The need for additional faculty could continue if MU expects another record-sized freshman class in fall 2009.

Phillips said he also hopes that the university will allow case-by-case appeals to justify some hiring.

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Marvalee Alinder November 18, 2008 | 11:41 a.m.

And just how, pray tell, does a hiring freeze on all departments help with getting people back to work, paying taxes, and helping the recovery effort??? This sounds backwards to me. Is Missouri University hiring people they don't need? I doubt it. I don't think this action is warranted, or for that matter, really thought through.

(Report Comment)
Marcie McShane November 23, 2008 | 9:47 a.m.

As an employee in academic units of MU for over 13 years, I do believe it is time for the administration to focus on some issues that are causing them to think they even need to hire so many more faculty.

Let's actually have the faculty on campus teach.

While there are many (and hopefully most) faculty who do carry a reasonable teaching load, I know of many who earn in excess of $120,000 per year, yet teach only maybe a graduate seminar each semester. Max. of maybe 10 students in each class, so they're teaching 20 students a year for that salary. Enough of the teaching downloads!

While we all know research is important to the mission of MU, teaching should be the top priority. Far too much emphasis is put on research during the promotion and tenure process. I've seen many assistant professors who were excellent teachers, loved to teach, and were open to and involved with their students, but who weren't as interested in their research, when P&T time came around they were given a non-renewal contract and essentially let go from the university. They had the highest teaching evaluations. So we're ending up with "researchers" who are required to teach - some.

I have a daughter who is a senior at MU. Recently she looked back at all the classes she had taken, and of all the classes outside her major, she had more credit hours taught by TA's and adjunct/non-regular faculty than by regular faculty. So, we're paying faculty to not carry reasonable teaching loads, and paying graduate students to teach the classes faculty don't want to teach. While the grad students are paid far less that the faculty, we sure don't pay any less per credit hour for classes taught by GTA's.

A common statement I've heard from many faculty who'd rather research than teach is "this would be a great job if I did have to teach".

During the mid-90's when there was a campus wide freeze on raises I know of a professor who received a 14% raise because he had taken on a departmental level duty. The raise was approved by the provost. However, 85% of the duties were actually done by departmental staff, and during the summer months when these duties were to take place, the faculty member was out of town for two months, leaving the staff to handle the matters.

We need to get the whole faculty body back to basics - teaching!!!

(Report Comment)
Ayn Rand November 23, 2008 | 10:39 a.m.

"We need to get the whole faculty body back to basics - teaching!!!"

Ain't gonna happen because -- as I noted in post that was deleted from another story -- MU and all other colleges abide by the publish-or-perish fetish, which values research over teaching.

(Report Comment)

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