Budget cuts leave staff and faculty positions open

Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens’ recommendation for cuts to the higher-education budget forces Truman State University to think critically about open positions.

In previous years, the University has eliminated positions while fine-tuning others as a way to strategically navigate budget cuts without sacrificing the quality of the University. Moving forward, the University will continue to look at open positions carefully while encouraging departments to make difficult decisions after considering creative solutions to the distribution of duties.

As of March 6, the University had 11 faculty positions, eight staff positions and three administrative positions available for hire. Janet Gooch, executive vice president for academic affairs and provost, said these positions will not be affected by budget cuts, and if a position is listed, it will be filled. Gooch said the University will start to evaluate on a case-by-case, department-by-department basis whether the open positions should be filled or if the department should consider an alternative approach.

“As new positions come open, we will probably take a real critical look to see whether the duties of the person who is leaving can be redistributed maybe, or if we could redistribute some of those duties,” Gooch said.  

Gooch said the University could redistribute duties by funneling all those duties to another position, or only reconfiguring some of those duties and then hiring a part-time position to handle the rest of the responsibilities.  For faculty positions, Gooch said this process starts at the department level as deans confer with department heads to evaluate their needs. This process and the hiring requirements won’t change in the face of budget cuts.

Departments and their chairs will still submit a position justification form which establishes why the department needs the position, what the consequences of not filling the position are for the department and its curriculum, and what alternative measures have been considered. Then the deans decide which requests to find alternative solutions for and which to pass to the administration because they have a holistic view of their school, Gooch said.

University President Sue Thomas said this is meant to be a collaborative process for the University to determine what decisions make sense in their individual units and within the goals and mission of the University.

“I don’t know which faculty positions must be maintained and which ones might have flexibility to be done in another way, or what’s true in athletics or student affairs or in maintenance and repair budgets,” Thomas said. “So, it’s really the people that work, and that’s their lives at the University who need to make those kinds of decisions and figure it out.”

Gooch said part of a dean’s job is to be aware of the balance in their school, taking into account the history of the different departments. Deans use that knowledge to prioritize the open positions by level of necessity. A phase one faculty position needs to be hired during the current hiring phase or the curriculum will suffer, while phase two and three positions can be advertised at a later date.

The request is then passed to the provost before moving to the University president for approval.

Gooch said she and the University president looked at the overall cost of the position to the University, whether the department has considered creative ways to reassign those duties without hiring a new faculty member, and what the consequence of not filling that position would be to the department.  

Gooch said one strength that surfaces when a department has to fill a position is when the department is forced to do something during the interim. She said departments start asking how they can reorganize to meet their needs in the meantime.

Gooch said staff positions are approached in a similar way. The office fills out a request and justification, which are then passed on to the supervisor before being approved or rejected by the University president’s advisory council.

“I don’t think there is one set method for how we’re going to do this but department by department,” Gooch said. “We’re going to be looking at how we might be able to do things more efficiently so that, if there are positions, we can either not rehire or rehire at a smaller capacity then we’ll try to do that to save more money.”