Vice provost: furloughs possible for faculty, staff

Furloughs are likely to be implemented sometime in the spring semester as part of the solution to the financial problems facing the University, said a University official at the Urbana-Champaign Faculty Senate meeting on Monday.

After a presentation about FY 2010, the microphones were opened up to members of the senate for questions and comments about how to move forward with next year’s budget. Many questions addressed the possibility and details of furloughs, which are mandatory unpaid days for University faculty and staff.

“I think there’s a likelihood of furloughs,” said Richard Wheeler, vice provost. “We are in a situation where that’s one of several cost-saving measures that will probably have to (be voted on).”

In March, Gov. Pat Quinn proposed implementing more furloughs for State of Illinois employees in his proposed state budget.

“The reason furloughs are under discussion is because they are a short term, cashflow, partial solution to a very big problem,” Wheeler said. “But beyond that, the reason furloughs are under discussion is because they are a more humane option than firing people.”

Ilya Kapovich, associate professor in mathematics and member of the U-C Senate, said he understands the reasoning behind furlough days. However, he asked that these days occur on instruction days rather than on non-instruction days or holidays, so lawmakers and the public can see the problems the University is facing due to reduced state funding of post-secondary institutions.

Associate Provost for Budgets and Resource Planning Michael Andrechak said he did not think Kapovich’s request would be the best approach.

“I think that an effort on our part to send a message to the state, ‘Look at the great pain we’re in that we need to give up instruction days,’ will be greeted by parents who pay tuition and citizens that pay taxes with a different kind of response than the one that you would like to have from them,” he added.

Peter Loeb, professor emeritus in mathematics and member of the U-C Senate, said he is concerned with furloughs and their impact on employees’ pensions. He said although furloughs are considered a short-term solution to the financial crisis, they will “have a long-term impact on those close to retirement.”

“If the pay is reduced for those within the last two years of their service, then that also affects their retirement pay forever, and that’s not right,” Loeb added.

If furloughs are implemented, Andrechak said employees would be required to take between two and four furlough days. He said if each member of the faculty and staff takes one furlough day, it will generate $1.8 million for the University.