Gov. Matt Mead began a state-wide hiring freeze in October, and the University of Wyoming is not exempt. Certain exceptions are allowed to keep the institution running, although certain departments are feeling the effects.
The UW executive council, comprised of UW President Dick McGinity and the vice presidents, review every open faculty position and decide if it should be filled without directly involving state employees.
In the 2013-2014 school year, 333 full-time faculty members worked in the College of Arts and Sciences —more than three times more the College of Health Sciences at 96. And in the past few years, filling empty positions has been tough, Dean Paula Lutz said.
“We did decide to ask to fill certain positions, but not all — much less than half,” she said. “Now, we did get approved for those positions as the searches went along, but they were carefully watched throughout the entire process to make sure they were a priority.”
In the 2014-2015 school year, Lutz estimated about 20 positions opened in the college and less than 10 hires were made. This year, about 15 positions opened up, and she again plans to hire less than half.
“I still think we’ll be making some hires, but things can always change,” she said.
The open positions are spread throughout the college in various departments and not clumped in one program, Lutz said.
“Right now, I have two-thirds of my departments that tell me they have pretty important needs,” she said. “Departments that teach courses very critical for other units — they’re affected. We worry to meet the campus needs and the needs of our own majors.”
The School of Energy Resources is also feeling the freeze, Director Mark Northam said.
“We’ve had a couple retirements we haven’t replaced and a position that was eliminated when an individual left us,” he said. “We’ve been consolidating.”
Like Arts and Sciences, Northam said he’s filled important positions since the freeze began with administrative approval, but the open jobs are still leaving a gap.
“When you’re already really busy and you take over another job — it’s difficult,” he said.
But when it comes down to it, Northam explained, the school is there for the students, not the faculty.
“Our mission is only accomplished by investing the funds the state puts into our school in the programs made available to the students instead of the people working,” he said.
The majority of the vacancies come from retirement, but UW still has faculty leaving for other jobs.
In the 2014-2015 school year, 27 faculty members resigned from their positions out of 747 full-time faculty members, coming to about 3.6 percent of the total faculty pool.
In the same year, Colorado State University had 1,063 faculty members, 40 of which left for reasons other than retirement, or 3.8 percent of the total tenure-track faculty.
UW Faculty Senate Chair Tucker Readdy said a majority of these departures are for better job opportunities and not necessarily better wages.
“We can see that many of those factors into a person’s decision, but what I like that is happening is people are choosing jobs that may just be a little better fit for them,” he said. “I think the assumptions people are making are negative, and I’d hope that, when people do choose to move, it’s based on a number of factors, like overall quality of the job.”
A voluntary survey for faculty members leaving their positions was created in spring 2015, and a variety of reasons were shown to play into a person’s decision to leave, including better locations for family members, better career opportunities or salary increases.
UW professor salaries are below national averages. In the 2012-2013 school year, the average public doctoral-level university salary was $89,657 — UW’s average was $78,543, or nearly 14 percent less.
For the last seven years, administration kept track of the various institutions faculty members have gone to after leaving UW. As of the 2014-2015 school year, UW ranked 44 out of 62 in average salary with $112,500 for full professors, $79,500 for associate professors and $72,500 for assistant professors.
The University of Pennsylvania topped the list with $197,500 for professors, $125,200 for associates and $119,600 for assistant professors.
However, Lutz said these salary problems are not unique to Wyoming.
“I haven’t really heard anyone say it’s because of the hiring freeze,” she said. “We all worry about what’s going on economically in the state, but even with these troubles, we’ve all watched our colleagues in other states deal with this in previous years. If you’re looking for a place to go without budget problems, I’m not sure if that’s possible right now.”
Regardless of the reason, positions are staying open, putting more pressure on individual faculty members, Lutz said.
“There has to be effects if you aren’t filling all your positions,” she said. “Maybe you find more efficiencies and appropriate things. In other things, we’re putting something off to see if we can do something in a better way. But, in the end, when you don’t fill faculty lines in sometimes very critical areas — and in Arts and Sciences, we teach something like 58 percent of the student credit hours — caps on students is going to increase. The number of sections we can teach will go down.”
One of the best ways to avoid the current hiring process is to keep the faculty a department already has, Readdy said.
“If you think about our current climate, one of the easiest ways people can reduce their budget is — if someone were to leave, be it to retirement or another job or lack of performance — if I don’t fill that line, then I’m saving a significant chunk of money,” he said. “My thinking is that units should be working as hard as they can to retain people right now, because if the position is left open, there’s a question of if it’s going to be filled or if it becomes a way to ultimately save money.”
By the numbers:
UW full-time faculty (includes tenure-track and lecturers):
UW faculty resignations, not including retirement:
27, 3.6 percent: 2014-2015
29, 3.9 percent: 2013-2014
24, 3.2 percent: 2012-2013
30, 4 percent: 2011-2012
28, 3.7 percent: 2010-2011
Colorado State University tenure-track faculty:
Colorado State University resignations:
40, 3.8 percent: 2014-2015
28, 2.7 percent: 2013-2014
22, 2.2 percent: 2012-2013
31, 3 percent: 2011-2012
24, 2.4 percent: 2010-2011