The University of Wyoming took the first step necessary Wednesday to consider eliminating some tenured faculty positions.
University of Wyoming President Laurie Nichols declared a financial crisis during the UW trustees’ meeting, the first step in UW regulations concerning financial exigency.
According to UW regulation 3-41, a financial exigency is “a financial crisis so severe that preservation of the integrity of the university and prevention of substantial harm to the institution requires termination of the employment of tenured faculty.”
That doesn’t mean tenured faculty positions are on the chopping block yet. UW Board of Trustees President John MacPherson explained declaring a crisis is only the first step and does not immediately mean a financial exigency is on the horizon. A strong reason is also needed to make such a statement.
“You have to have the facts to support a crisis,” he said.
“We’ve been mandated, under the penny plan, to cut the budget. We’ve gotten a letter from the governor, which unequivocally directs us to cut another $35 million. In our attempts to address those mandated items in our budgets, we intend to follow the university regulation related to (financial crisis and financial exigency).
“We are not, and hopefully will not, have to declare a financial exigency,” he continued. “That only occurs after a plan has been developed and if, in fact, it affects tenured employees, then it’s up to the board to decide whether or not that step should be taken.”
A financial crisis has not been declared in recent history, UW spokesperson Chad Baldwin said, even during the 2009-2010 budget reductions.
A 13-member board comprised of administration, faculty, staff and students will now convene and begin to plan the best way UW should move forward, Nichols said.
“After the first step, it allows you to go into what I call a very aggressive planning stage,” she said. “It’s our goal to not go to exigency. We don’t want to. In my opinion, it would be much better to have a campus-wide group with representation from everyone on campus to sit at the table in the planning stage working on this so that, when we come out of this, we’re working together,” she said.
One job the board will have is to determine the ultimate budget of each college and department, mostly through what areas to cut, said David Jones, vice president for academic affairs.
“There will be a financial planning committee put together, and that’s probably when these questions are going to be addressed,” he said. “Right now, things are very dynamic in terms of what positions are eventually going to be eliminated, I don’t think we’re going to have a good feel for that for probably another month-and-a-half.
“There might be some programmatic things like operating budgets, but when such a large percentage of our budget is personnel, you can’t help (but eliminate positions),” he continued.
Work on the FY 2018 budget will begin in the summer, Nichols said, and some money-saving strategies are already in the works.
“We talked about the program reviews that are underway that they would be completed and would work against those to figure out what programs we would keep and if there should be programs we would want to eliminate because of this,” she said.
Streamlining organizational structures would also play an important part of reducing costs in the future, Nichols said, through either administration or program changes.
All of these plans, however, will continue to stick to the university’s mission, Nichols said.
“It’s always important, when you head into a budget reduction, that you really put out in front of you principles that you’re going to try to stick to as you work through a budget cut,” she said. “It’s important to remember that primary mission of education.”