Western announces faculty layoffs

Steven Barnum, Assistant News Editor

A decline in student enrollment and state funding continue to be areas of concern for Western Illinois University. In June, Western announced that two dozen faculty members would be laid off, while 62 additional positions will be eliminated.

Western stated that the layoffs are part of a strategy to save money, backed up by the fiscal year 2018 budget, which indicates that they will save north of $4.5 million. Tri States Public Radio learned from Interim Academic Provost Dr. Kathy Neumann that the layoffs will affect all five of Western’s academic colleges.

Regarding the elimination of the 62 positions, Western points out that as many as 57 of those are currently occupied by someone who plans to retire or leave for another job at the end of the school year. The layoffs, approved by the Western Illinois University Board of Trustees, gives impacted employees a one-year notice, which means those employees will keep their jobs until June 30, 2019.

BOT Chair Cathy Early offered an explanation on the strategy. “Throughout the institution’s history, Western has re-adjusted according to the times. The current realities facing public higher education call for realignment,” Early said. Also commenting on the decision is President Jack Thomas. “Western is adapting to the changes facing public higher education. Changing the University’s personnel structure is a difficult decision, and adapting to the new higher education landscape means making difficult decisions,” Thomas said.

Financial issues will continue to force the administration to make difficult decisions with the continuous decline in student enrollment. The Director of Admissions, Seth Miner, expects a decline of around 14 percent from last fall to this fall. The current fiscal year, which began on July 1, includes $47.2 million in state funding for Western, which is significantly less than what was requested. Al Bowman, executive director of the Illinois Board of Higher Education (IBHE) and IBHE Chair Tom Cross believe that Western’s plan for future growth matches up with the statewide plan. “We are pleased to see that Western Illinois University, under the leadership of President Jack Thomas, continues to exercise mission-driven strategic planning, while remaining good fiscal stewards,” Cross said.

Some departments, like the Department of Art and the Department of  Curriculum and Instruction, will each lose four positions. The Department of Computer Science and the Department of Education and Human Services will each lose three positions. Elsewhere, an assistant vice president in the provost’s office, three employees inUniversity Technology and two academic advisors will be laid off. A specific list of positions eliminated and departments impacted can be found at www.tspr.org.