Last November, Northwestern’s administration announced that based on the budget projection for the 2010-11 school year, NW will have a $3 million revenue shortfall. To prevent such a deficit from occurring, budget cuts—including faculty and staff lay-offs and program eliminations—will be enforced during the next fiscal year starting July 1, 2010.
President Greg Christy said he informed the faculty and staff last November that due to the projected deficit, the budget cuts for next year would have to affect personnel and not just operational budgets. Since then, the administration has been trying to decide where these cuts should take place.
“We worked on this for a few months. This is something that’s taken a lot of time and energy,” Christy said. “Because we’re dealing with people’s lives and livelihoods, we wanted to spend a lot of time and a lot of prayer to ensure that we’re making the best decisions we can for the institution.”
The Administrative Council, along with input from the Strategic Planning Committee, Dean’s Council and Budget Committee, made the budget cut decisions. Where possible, they also visited with department and division heads to hear their input.
“We tried to make the best decisions we could by involving as many people as we could in the process,” Christy said.
Based on the administration’s findings, they decided to eliminate the position of two full-time faculty members, two adjunct faculty members, seven full-time staff members, and three part-time staff members. In addition, three faculty positions that are currently vacant will not be filled, and a staff position that will open due to a retirement will not be filled. Also, eight staff positions will be reduced from either full-time to three-quarters time or from three-quarters time to half time. Out of respect and sensitivity to the faculty and staff involved in the lay-offs, Christy chose not to release their names.
Regarding the lay-offs, Christy said, “This is a very painful thing to have to do. We have so many great people here, and these people that are going to be leaving us are people that we value and care about, so that makes it especially difficult.”
Christy said that they decided to let the laid-off and reduced-time personnel know about these changes six months in advance so they can hopefully either find new employment with NW’s help or prepare for fewer hours.
One reason Christy gave for the $3 million deficit is that while student enrollment has been down the last couple of years, the number of faculty and staff is at the highest it has ever been.
“We’ve always wanted to be between 14-to-1 and 16-to-1 in the student-to-faculty ratio. Before making these decisions, we had actually fallen below 14-to-1,” Christy said.
As for deciding where to make the cuts, Christy said, “We’ve tried to make the cuts in areas where maybe we’ve had more growth in recent years and where there are other staff persons who hopefully can pick up some of the responsibilities of those who are leaving.”
Impact on Students
Although the administration’s goal was to make cuts in the areas where it would have the least impact possible on students, they recognize that some students will be more affected by the personnel cuts than others.
Effects from the cuts include the elimination of the Cinema & Digital Video major and the French minor. Adrienne Forgette, Dean of Faculty, has met with almost all of the students majoring in Cinema & Digital Video to figure out plans for them to finish their major at NW if they are close to graduating or to find ways where they can finish up here and with some other institutions if necessary.
Freshman Kaiser DeKam is one student who is directly impacted by the program cut. He came to NW specifically for its Cinema & Digital Video major. The program being cut “definitely changes the probability of me graduating at NW because without my major, there’s no reason to stay here,” DeKam said.
Student Development will also see some changes due to personnel cuts. The orientation program will be put under different Student Development leadership, and the responsibility of the yearbook will possibly be moved from being under the auspices of Student Development. Also, the RD position for Heemstra Hall is being eliminated for next school year.
“We are reducing our RD staff by one because we can house the Heemstra students in other residence halls for next year until the new residence facility is built,” Christy said. He also said that they will look into hiring an RD for the new facility after next school year.
Besides the personnel cuts, the administration also cut $50,000 from both the athletics and global education departments, and they adjusted operational funds.
“I’ve asked senior level administrators, including myself, to take a pay cut for this next fiscal year,” Christy said. “We’re doing that to try to save money on the budget as well.”
In total, $2.4 million dollars have been cut from next year’s budget. The administration hopes that increasing NW’s revenue will fill the remaining $600,000 deficit. One way they are doing this is by increasing the NW Fund by 25% and by improving the student enrollment & retention numbers. Christy said that this year NW had its highest retention rate in five years and signs are pointing to a strong enrollment this coming fall.
“There are better days ahead. In spite of these very difficult present challenges, the future for the college is bright, and that’s what we look forward to,” Christy said. “But in the meantime we still have heavy hearts for those persons whose positions have been directly impacted.”
Christy also mentioned the graciousness and professionalism of the people who have lost their jobs. “I just appreciate every one of them and what they’ve done for the institution. We will help them in any way that we can,” Christy said. “Together we will get through this.”