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Faculty Attrition

Yesterday's ruminations on how the University can better leverage the abilities of its strongest asset could not have come at a better time, as the Sun is running three excellent articles today on how the University is dealing with its faculty:

On encouraging faculty to retire and managing budgets through attrition:

“Encouraging incentives is something you can do if it’s their choice,” Opperman said. “The downside of that option is one of few things you can do when you give choice to a person, [it] slips into seeming as though you don’t need people who are older. They are some of your most talented workers. You don’t want to braindrain your organization and lose your most valuable people.”

Another aspect of this method of attrition is hiring. Thus far, initial efforts have focused on instituting an external hiring pause – extended to June 30, 2009, internally hiring staff dislocated by program cuts, and providing resources those adversely affected by the cuts, according to Skorton’s report on Jan. 25.

“Some faculty searches will proceed, but significantly fewer across the entire university,” Fuchs told the University. “We need to manage the reduction in the number of faculty strategically, so that high-priority areas don’t lose critical faculty.”

On how ILR has placed the burden of most of its cuts on the extension division:

ILR will make most of its reductions within its extension division, which is responsible for conducting workshops, seminars and courses for alumni and professionals interested in the school’s fields. The cuts will include some lay-offs effective in June.

“[Our cuts] included 17 employees in the ILR extension division…” Katz stated, “They were a mix of professionals and support staff, not faculty.”

In addition to off-campus cuts, the school also plans to create major savings on-campus.

“We’ve left open some staff positions that have been vacated through attrition. Some of those are in the library, some are in administrative support …” Katz noted. “In some cases, we’ll hire lecturers instead of tenured track faculty, which is less expensive.”

Lee Dyer, chairperson of the Department of Human Resource Studies, reiterated that although the school would focus on reducing excess administrative payments, none of the cuts would impact classes.

“Our [department’s] part is to reduce administrative expenditures such as supplies, copying, and the like,” Dyer stated in an e-mail. “Dean Katz is committed to working through this challenge in a way that minimizes its effects on the core mission of the School. Consequently, teaching assignments, classes and staffing — and more specifically the quantity and quality of our course offerings — have been and (absent some cataclysmic turn of events) will continue to be unaffected.”

Yet in spite of the school’s efforts to limit the impact on the types of courses offered, there will be some changes. In an attempt to reduce expenditures, ILR cancelled two of its three faculty hiring searches for this year. In addition, although the number of students has dramatically increased in the last 10 years, the number of faculty has remained constant at 50. While this has aided the school’s ability to run a balanced budget, it has also increased certain class sizes.

“We are concerned in the sense that we’re looking for ways to ensure that students don’t face dramatic increases in class size,” Katz explained. “Some of that we’ve accomplished with more lecturers, some of that we’ve gotten rid of classes that have less than five students.”

And the ongoing calamities in AAP:

In addition to the search for a new department chair, the department’s faculty was a source of discussion. Mulcahy responded to concerns over the lack of tenured professors and the uncertainty some students are feeling regarding how long professors may be staying at Cornell.

“It’s been a long time since we’ve replenished the well in terms of tenure track design faculty. The reality is that we want that to happen and for one reason or another that hasn’t happened. We’re looking forward to a chair that can make that argument for us,” Mulcahy said.

Another issue highlighted in the discussion was visiting faculty. Cruvellier explained that there will be fewer visiting faculty next year as a direct result of budget cuts, but the quality of education will not be compromised.

“I am absolutely committed to this place and to providing a world class program … We’ll cut back on many other things before we cut back on who’s teaching here and the education offered,” Cruvellier said.

On the topic of visiting faculty, Mulcahy also commented on concerns over a separation between permanent and visiting faculty.

“Visiting faculty and permanent faculty haven’t been that synergistic. I don’t think its good for you or us. There needs to be more interaction and exchange between the people coming through and the people that are here. I’m hoping that with this new leadership and initiatives can change that,” Mulcahy said.

Matthew Nagowski | Posted on February 26, 2009 (#)

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