About 50 positions remain open in hiring freeze, Deaton says

Tuesday, November 18, 2008 | 8:56 p.m. CST; updated 10:01 p.m. CST, Tuesday, November 18, 2008

COLUMBIA — Despite a systemwide hiring freeze announced Monday by University of Missouri System President Gary Forsee, some positions will still be filled, MU Chancellor Brady Deaton said Tuesday at a news conference.

Fifty positions are currently unfrozen, either because they are high priority or because people are already in the process of being hired for those spots, Deaton said. In an e-mail sent Tuesday to MU faculty and staff, he clarified that some positions would be unaffected by the freeze, including research and grant- and contract-funded faculty positions. Hiring may also be allowed for positions in the health care field and for positions expected to bring in revenue, he said.

The rest of the 300 faculty, staff, student and part-time positions currently open at MU will be subject to the freeze, Deaton said in the e-mail. These positions will be analyzed to determine whether they merit being filled. About 12,250 people are currently employed by MU, Deaton said.

Deaton said during the news conference that the overall objective is to maintain the current employment level during the coming year.

Deaton said he and his staff are developing a plan to manage the freeze while making sure that available funds go toward MU’s highest priorities. The plan also calls for each campus’ chancellor to review line items of expense and capital. Deaton said he and the other chancellors met with Forsee last week to discuss the hiring freeze and are scheduled to meet with him again next Monday.

Deaton’s announcement seemed to seek to clarify what Forsee said Monday in a letter to faculty and staff, which stated “searches currently under way and open positions will be frozen.”

MU Provost Brian Foster told deans and department chairs Tuesday in an e-mail to suspend most searches and to fill only positions entirely funded from external grants or contracts.

“Please do not schedule interviews that are not already scheduled until we are able to get back to you about (the) process,” Foster said in the e-mail, adding that his office is currently unable to answer questions about what might happen next.

At Tuesday’s news conference, Deaton cut off discussion of layoffs. He also said that neither capping enrollment nor raising academic standards would be desirable for financial reasons.

“We will keep faith with our students to provide them with the learning environment and support they need to be successful,” Deaton said in his e-mail.

Deaton said he spoke Monday with state legislators to review critical points about the university. “We all have a stake in this, and there is a shared responsibility of the students and legislators to ensure quality education,” he said.

Response from the academic community was mixed. Some, such as Faculty Council Chair Tom Phillips, questioned whether the freeze would prove beneficial. Others, such as Michael O’Brien, dean of the College of Arts and Science, supported Forsee’s decision. Still others, such as School of Medicine spokesman Rich Gleba, said the school would be involved in the development of a plan to move forward.

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