UPDATE: Chancellor explains hiring freeze effects on MU

Tuesday, November 25, 2008 | 5:40 p.m. CST; updated 7:17 p.m. CST, Tuesday, November 25, 2008

COLUMBIA – MU Chancellor Brady Deaton clarified the effects of the UM System-wide hiring freeze on MU faculty and staff in an e-mail on Tuesday.

The hiring freeze will not apply to fully-funded grant and contract positions, fully-endowed positions or federal work study student positions at MU, Deaton said in the e-mail.

Other positions will have to meet specific criteria to be unfrozen.

An outline of hiring freeze guidelines shows that exceptions will be reviewed by high-level administrators who have the final say in approving new hires. The exceptions include:

  • potential hires who had already received preliminary offers by Nov. 17;
  • positions that are necessary for immediate public safety issues; and
  • part-time or temporary faculty and staff to teach classes in Spring 2009, including graduate teaching assistantships.

To petition for an exception, the supervisor of the empty position will fill out a form demonstrating the need. That form must be approved by a department head and sent to the Chancellor’s office.

Further exceptions will be considered, including positions essential for patient care in health care facilities, positions required to recruit, admit or retain students and positions that generate revenue to offset their cost. Priority will also be given to extraordinary hires that would bring strength to the campus, among others.

If a hiring need does not meet these criteria, exceptions will still be considered, but at a cost. Departments must outline any cuts or reorganizations they would face if the position goes unfilled.

Departments must also answer questions such as:

  • Could the position be eliminated and the functions combined with another position?
  • Is this position clearly needed to meet accreditation requirements?
  • Is it possible to operate the program without accreditation?

But MU does not want to sacrifice accreditation. MU spokesman Christian Basi said the university is adamant about maintaining educational quality. Basi said if a position is necessary to maintain credibility and individual programs' proper accreditation, then "it is a point in favor (of filling it).”

Each position will be looked at on a case-by-case basis, Basi said. The length of the freeze is unknown.

Thomas Phillips, MU Faculty Council chair and a professor in the biological sciences department, said he is encouraged by the new exception guidelines. Faculty suggested conditions for where exceptions should be made. Phillips calls the process a team effort.

“The Faculty Council will be watching closely. An ongoing concern is that there will be enough faculty to handle the student load and deliver a quality education experience,” Phillips said. “The faculty appreciate that there is an economic crisis, but we want to maintain the faculty/student ratio.”

Michael O’Brien, dean of MU’s College of Arts and Science, is optimistic about the effects of the freeze. He said the College of Arts and Science has enough instructors for Spring 2009 classes and is not worried about having enough instructors for Fall 2009.

“We’ve weathered storms over the last 175 years, and we’ll get through this one, too,” O’Brien said. “We don’t know what the future will be, so let’s take it a little slow until we do.”


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