Well, while there may be glimmers of hope for a recovery in the rest of the economy, we seem to be on the cusp of things getting much, much worse.
In the coming academic year, we won’t be using furloughs to try to save money. Instead, beyond employing laying of lots of lecturers (who, because they are classified as “temporary” employees, despite the fact that many of them have taught here for decades, aren’t counted as being laid off, there will be a bunch of layoffs that the university actually acknowledges as lay-offs:
San José State is midway through a two-year effort to shrink its base budget to $263 million. To make permanent an $18 million reduction achieved this year through furlough savings, SJSU will lay off approximately 76 staff members and reassign 48 more in accordance with labor agreements effective July 1, 2010. SJSU will also eliminate 49 vacant staff and 7 vacant management positions, transfer 21 positions to non-state funded sources and cut operational expenses.
Plus, there is the ongoing reduction in enrollment, since it costs money to educate a student, and the state budget is now providing the state’s share of the funding for fewer students. From the same press release:
“Employees directly affected by these changes form the backbone of our university,” President Whitmore said. “They ensure our offices run smoothly, and our faculty and students receive the services they need. Enrollment cuts over the past two years will ease the pressure, but not enough to leave our remaining students untouched by today’s announcement.”
SJSU reduced enrollment from approximately 32,750 headcount at the start of 2008-2009 to 27,400 headcount by the end of 2009-2010. Before the changes announced today, SJSU employed approximately 1,816 faculty members, 1,184 staff members and 186 managers, for a grand total of 3,186 employees.
How exactly will the students be touched by the layoffs? I ran into a colleague from a science department here who told me that in the coming year they must slash their course offerings in half. Especially impacted are courses that are required for that department’s major programs.
I’m guessing that is not going to help us meet our campus goal of getting more of the students who are already here graduated in a timely manner.
Other departments and colleges are responding to the shortage of teaching personnel by declaring their programs “impacted” — which means that they can set a minimum GPA that one must attain in order to be a major. Given that this is happening in at least one field that historically draws a huge number of intended majors, this could shake up the plans of our student body pretty significantly.
Then there are the proposed changes I’m hearing about through unofficial channels (presumably because they haven’t been finalized yet).
There’s talk of making students declare a major within a semester of matriculation, and then pretty much locking them into that major until they’ve graduated — unless they can manage to change majors without exceeding the minimum number of course credits needed to earn a degree. (I have no idea how that’s supposed to work out for people who declare impacted majors but don’t clear the bar for those major programs.) Double-majoring, of course, will be right out.
There are also movements toward consolidating existing departments and programs — perhaps because this kind of “reorganization of units” opens the door, within the terms of our contracts, to reassign or dismiss even those with tenure.
The colleague who told me about the slashed course offerings in her department opined that at this point, it might make more sense to actually shutter a few of the 23 campuses in the CSU system rather than having all of them open for business but operating in such a way that our students can only get three quarters of the way to their degree before the time and money they’ve spent here reach the level where they decide it’s smarter to leave. How to choose which campuses to close down, though, seems like a brutally hard problem.
And even then, I’m not sure that the resources freed up by operating fewer campuses would be enough that the remaining campuses could serve the student population that needs to be served. The students from those closed campuses would have to end up somewhere, right?
Of course, for as clearly as I can see the downsides to various actual or hypothetical policy changes proposed to get us through the ginormous budget shortfall, it’s not like I have a good idea of how to fix a mess this big. The best I can do is try to ride it out and minimize the impact on my piece of our educational mission.