Some non-tenure-track faculty at MU were told Wednesday their contracts will not be renewed for the 2018-2019 school year, according to an email from Interim Provost Jim Spain.
“This is a very hard day for everybody,” MU spokesman Christian Basi said.
The number of affected faculty will differ from school to school, and the total number was not immediately available Wednesday afternoon, Basi said.
The school is required to notify non-tenure-track, or NTT, faculty 90 days in advance of the end of their contracts if it chooses not to renew them. Most whose contracts are year-to-year expire in May, Basi said, and Wednesday was the latest they could be informed.
Affected NTT faculty will receive some money from the school to help with the transition. To qualify for the assistance, they must be non-clinical faculty, be eligible for benefits and have worked at least three years. Their non-renewal also must be a result of the budget cuts, not because of poor performance.
- Faculty who have worked at MU between three and 10 years will receive a lump sum of $5,000.
- Those employed between 10 and 15 years will receive $10,000.
- Those who have worked at MU for more than 15 years will receive $12,500.
In 2017, about 43 percent of MU’s faculty were NTT, or 846 of the total 1,969 faculty members, according to data from MU’s Institutional Research & Quality Improvement. NTT faculty members are hired on one- to three-year renewable contracts without the possibility of tenure, which carries long-term job security.
Tenure-track and tenured faculty are evaluated in three ways: teaching, research and service — which includes participating in departmental and other committees and advising students. Non-tenure-track faculty are evaluated in two of those three categories, depending on their job descriptions.
Who will make the decisions?
Each MU unit — colleges, divisions and various offices — has been tasked with planning for 10, 12.5 and 15 percent budget cut possibilities, Basi said. The budget picture for next year is far from set in stone, he said, and decisions are being made based on current budget and enrollment projections that are subject to change.
The three plans — for 10, 12.5 and 15 percent, or $48.6 million overall, $59.1 million or $69.6 million in cuts — will be submitted to the chancellor’s office, which will review all potential cuts, Basi said. The final cuts will not necessarily be distributed evenly across all divisions, he said, and the decisions by deans for Wednesday’s NTT non-renewals are based on the knowledge that a substantial budget cut is highly likely.
The other system campuses were not engaged in the same process Wednesday. “The other schools are handling their own budgets as they see fit,” Basi said.
MU is “planning for the worst, but hoping for the best,” Basi said.
Some NTT faculty who were told they will not be renewed may have that change later this spring, Basi said, but it could be too late to stop them from leaving for other opportunities.
“Do we run the risk of potentially losing people? Yes, that is a concern,” Basi said.
“If the information on the budget stays the same as today, and doesn’t change, when it’s finalized in May and June these decisions will stand,” he said.
MU staff are, so far, not touched by projected budget cuts. However, Basi pointed out that hundreds — about 500 — of staff positions were eliminated in June to meet last year’s budget, so those areas of the budget may already be as trimmed as they can be.
The projected budget shortfalls are based on problems familiar to MU since 2015: declining state funding and enrollment.
Gov. Eric Greitens’ proposed budget would cut funding for the University of Missouri System by $43 million. Members of the legislature have said they do not support those cuts, but whether those cuts will be reduced, and by how much, likely won’t become clearer for weeks.
Sen. Dan Brown, head of the Senate Appropriations Committee, said the goal is to find a level for higher-education funding that’s “somewhere in between” the amount the governor proposed and the current funding level. That would mean that higher education funding would still be cut, but not as severely as the governor has recommended. He said more details should be worked out at the end of this month.
UM President Mun Choi said he could not comment specifically on the layoffs. He was at the Capitol on Wednesday lobbying for restoration of the system’s core budget.
“The proposed $40 million cut to our budget will have dramatic impact on our university,” Choi said.
Choi also advocated for bills that would increase the state-imposed tuition cap.
House Budget Chairman Rep. Scott Fitzpatrick said he and Choi are working on a deal that would restore funding to the UM System in exchange for an agreement on tuition rates for this upcoming school year.
“We want to make sure that there’s a correlation between the amount of money that we put back and the amount of money that’s coming out of the pockets of Missouri families that are paying to send their kids to school here.”
Fitzpatrick said the funds given back could vary anywhere from a small percentage of the cuts to a full restoration.
Despite the much-heralded bloom in applications to MU for this fall, total enrollment is expected to go down next academic year. MU’s first-time college enrollment peaked in 2014 at 6,515 students and was 6,191 in 2015, but has declined by almost exactly a third since.
A number of the students who came to MU when enrollment was booming will graduate this year and net enrollment will decrease — with tuition money going along for the ride.
The different unit leaders of MU’s divisions, schools and colleges were also free to seek areas for budget cuts besides NTT faculty non-renewals, but specific information for each unit was not immediately available.
“As the budget picture solidifies, we may have to make some more hard choices,” Basi said. “We’re watching it very closely.”
MU Chancellor Alexander Cartwright joined Choi and Spain at the Capitol on Wednesday to advocate for the school and its importance to the state.
Today’s cuts send a message to the legislature and the rest of the state that MU’s budget is already extraordinarily tight, Basi said.
“We have had nothing in our budget planning but cuts for the last several years,” Basi said.
Higher education state funding was cut by 9 percent last year. MU cut $60 million by laying off about 500 employees and spending $20 million from its reserves. It cut degree programs and closed a school-operated bed and breakfast, as well as a $10 million research institute ran by an award-winning scientist.
Choi also launched a top-to-bottom review of MU’s academic programs and the system and campuses’ administration. Accounting firm PriceWaterhouseCoopers cautioned that the UM System could have a deficit of $160 million in five years if cuts and consolidations aren’t made to benefits, information technology or several other areas.
In late January, the academic review task force released recommendations calling for closure, further review or combination of dozens of graduate programs. Final decisions for those cuts will be announced by the end of this semester, Cartwright said at a press conference at the time.
Missourian reporters Max Fillion, Grigor Atanesian and Kacen Bayless contributed to this report.