Faculty Suggestions on How to Deal with Additional Budget Shortfalls




The faculty recognizes the severity of the present budget problems due to the nationwide economic crisis. It is hoped that all affected parties, the taxpayers of Oklahoma, the students and the employees of the University, would be willing to share in the pain of solutions to this situation. As faculty members we are part of these groups and expect to do our part in this crisis. We do not believe retrenchment in any form is desirable, and sharing the pain should not be considered as approval.


The missions of the University are instruction, scholarship, and service. As faculty members, those missions are our preeminent responsibility. No other group has the same insight to these missions and the same sustained interest in them as the faculty. We must participate in identifying responses to the current crisis so that damage to the University’s instruction, scholarship, and service roles is held to a minimum. Further, the faculty must implement any responses in such a way that, when the budget resumes its growth, the University can repair itself and its missions as quickly as possible. It will be challenging to design budgetary responses that provide a framework for expansion of the teaching, scholarship, and service missions when the quest can finally be resumed, allowing the University to continue its progress relative to its peers.                


Thoughts and Suggestions


We need to manage the present crisis and minimize all losses. Starting in 1982, the budget crisis with associated furloughs abruptly ended the solid growth of the previous years for the University (attached). The resulting loss of faculty by 16% from 1982 to 1986 led to increased student-faculty ratios and a drop in research productivity. It is essential that damage to the University be held to a minimum at this juncture.


As seen in the mid-eighties, laying off faculty to meet budget shortfalls, even on a temporary basis, risks severe damage to the university. Laying off tenure-track faculty would be catastrophic, severely impacting hiring and retention for many years to come. On the other hand, adjunct faculty teach large numbers of students in important service courses on small salaries. Reductions in this teaching resource would lead either to increased class sizes in essential courses (with associated insufficient enrollment spaces), or to increased regular faculty teaching loads. Increased class sizes are known to decrease the quality of instruction. If faculty members have to teach more courses for the same number of students, their research productivity will necessarily decrease. Since research funding ($60,153,000 without CCE and instruction) and tuition/fees ($56,856,000 without CCE and Tulsa) make up about the same amounts in the budget, the non-State provided income to the university would invariably drop, further aggravating the budget situation.


Any temporary increases in teaching loads of regular faculty should be made with the commitment that relief - and if possible compensatory temporary teaching reductions - will be provided as soon as the budget crisis is alleviated. Units should consider the impact of increased faculty teaching loads in their annual evaluations. Temporary loans of faculty from other departments and/or external organizations could help relieve overload.


If control of class sizes does become necessary, admissions standards should be tightened, rather than enrollment limited. At the same time, minimum class enrollment should be strictly enforced and under-enrolled non-essential courses should be dropped.


Eliminating open positions should be done equitably. Departments with a large number of open positions should not have to take the brunt of the budget cuts. This should be decided at the College level.


Leaves of absence and one-year half-pay sabbaticals should be encouraged as short-term solutions. However, these have to be balanced against the resulting increase in teaching load and loss of research productivity in the department. Some universities have developed options for phased retirement of senior faculty. These, together with an attractive voluntary retirement option could help with longer-term fiscal concerns.


The faculty would expect the administration to look very carefully at the budget and consider all possible money saving alternatives before furloughs are implemented, e.g., open searches should be closed, non-essential travel should be curtailed, the opening of new buildings should be delayed to save maintenance and operations cost, etc.  


Any type of furlough would have to be an absolute last resort; after all other means of lowering expenses and generating additional income have been effected. In general, furloughs would be preferable to salary reductions to deal with additional budget shortfalls. Furloughs should be flexible and apply equitably to the whole University, including administrative twelve-month appointments and auxiliary services. Thus, they should be prorated to 12 months for 9-month faculty. Low salary TA, RA, faculty, and staff positions should be protected from furloughs as much as possible. Every effort should be made to repay lost income once the economy improves. 


As a one-time alternative to furloughs, faculty could agree to a one-month delay in the non-OTRS University retirement contribution. This would be repaid in the month after the end of employment.


For additional budget shortfalls, new initiatives will have to be abandoned and the size of the institution will have to be reduced temporarily. This should be done by horizontal across-the-board reductions. In general, vertical cuts in the form of eliminating obsolete or duplicate programs is an on-going task and should not be accelerated due to budget shortfalls. These actions are on a different time scale, i.e., they take, in general, longer than the standard economic cycle.


Finally, any unavoidable reduction in force should be done according to AAUP guidelines. 




The faculty would like to commend President Boren for his efforts to keep the negative impact of the budget cuts on the institution to a minimum. The removal of the yearly tuition increase cap and/or potential fee increases would go a long way towards preserving the progress we have made over recent years, while still giving students a first rate education at a bargain price.