Bridging the Gap: Keeping Students Informed on Administrative Policy

Tim Lavis, News Editor

Last week, The State Times sat down with Senior Executive Employee Services Officer, Lisa Wenck to speak about faculty management practices. Hal Legg, Director of Communications for the college joined the interview.

State Times: Who establishes the need for a new faculty member to be hired: the administration or the department?
Wenck: “I think it’s a combination; it’s academic affairs administration for the most part but typically the department, working with the Dean, and with the Provost, and amongst themselves will say ‘we (either) want to develop a new program’ or ‘someone’s on sabbatical’ or ‘someone’s retiring and we need to fill a position…’ and they work with the appropriate person above them to discuss their need.
ST: What is the ratio of adjunct professors to full time staff at Oneonta State?
Legg: “It’s a moving target because people come and go. I can tell you that on [August 9, 2011] we had 263 full time faculty members and 252 part time faculty members.
ST: Recent financial problems with SUNY and with the state have certainly affected budgets but have they had an impact on faculty hiring and retention practices?
W: “I can’t speak for other colleges but I know… the Vice President for Finance and Reform has talked about our budget situation and the fact that we’re okay… We need to, of course, bring our reserves back up just, as everyone else does but we are committed to doing what we need to do to continue to provide a high quality education for our students.”
ST: So the way that faculty are hired and managed hasn’t been affected at all by…
W: “Well I can’t speak to higher ed…”
ST: Okay. This is in a related vein. Academia has been experiencing a trend of cutting costs by hiring adjuncts. These policies have been said to create jobs for graduate students while limiting the job market for PhD’s [and professionals]. Is this trend reflected in SUNY Oneonta’s hiring practices?
W: “The president has publically made the commitment that we are holding the number of full time faculty positions [they will] remain the same. She has continued to do that through this process.”
Said President Kleniewski in December of 2010 – “the college opened this fiscal year with a budget gap of approximately $1 million, due to state cuts to SUNY funding. Last month, SUNY announced a mid-year cut of $500,000 to our campus, raising the amount of savings we’ll need to generate this year to $1.5 million. We anticipate further budget reductions next year.
To close the current gap and prepare for the future, we are seeking a total of $2.2 million in permanent, recurring savings. Already, we have identified $1.8 million of such savings, mostly through administrative restructuring and other efficiencies, filling early retirees’ and other vacancies at lower salaries, and leaving some positions vacant. While we hope to close the remaining $400,000 gap this month, Cabinet will continue to review all vacant positions monthly to take advantage of opportunities for savings as they present themselves.
To date, 8.8 positions have been eliminated, and another 6.5 have been left vacant for further review… Throughout this process, we shall remain committed to maintaining the integrity of the academic program. Toward this end, we have kept the number of faculty positions level, although the provost and deans have made some tough decisions about the allocation of faculty positions to departments. The only academic program that has been substantially affected is the degree in elementary education that we [offerred] in Utica in a partnership with Mohawk Valley Community College.”
ST: The college’s handbook is vague in describing what alleged actions would merit investigation and discipline against professors. Could you give some examples of…
W: “I cannot speak to anything that is a personnel action… discipline procedures are governed by the union contract, which is probably why you didn’t find much in the college handbook related to that… We have six unions on campus, the faculty are represented by UUP [United University Professions].”
The UUP contract does not describe specific actions that may warrant discipline It only notes:
“(Article 19.4) Discipline shall be imposed only for just cause.”
“(Article 19.9) An employee shall not be disciplined for acts, except those which would constitute a crime, which occurred more than one year prior to the service of the notice of discipline.”

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