March 2, 2010
To University of Idaho Faculty and Staff,
As the state's land-grant University, we have a distinctive statewide mission of teaching, research and outreach that is woven into the very fabric of the state itself. Thanks largely to your outstanding work and fiscal management, we’ve continued to fulfill that mission with excellence during these challenging economic conditions.
But now, as the state legislature moves forward with plans for additional reductions this year, and with the potential for reductions next year, the fundamental question has become: what is required to ensure that the high-quality education and programs that our students and state rely upon will thrive and grow, as state-appropriated funding continues to diminish and is ultimately recalibrated? My leadership team, along with faculty, staff and student leadership, has considered this question carefully – including seeking your input through listening sessions last fall – and has determined that employee furloughs are necessary this spring.
We recognize that this requires a sacrifice of almost every individual employed by the University of Idaho. But we also believe it is required in order to avoid more sweeping measures, such as significant layoffs. Through this approach, we will bridge to a time of more stability as the economy begins its recovery, as state revenues improve and as some of our strategies for new revenue sources take hold.
By definition, furloughs are a temporary cost-savings measure. Our priority in planning has been, above all else, to continue to ensure a high-quality educational experience for our students while minimizing the impact on our faculty and staff. Our focus in implementation is to ensure that furloughs are administered equitably and with maximum flexibility for employees.
The University of Idaho furlough program will apply to all board-appointed classified, exempt and faculty employees of the institution; in some circumstances, individuals who are funded entirely from external (non-state) grants may be excluded. Furlough-eligible employees will be required to take time off before the current fiscal year ends on June 25, 2010; faculty with nine-month contracts will need to complete furloughs by May 15, 2010. We will not require furloughs of those employees earning less than $22,360 annually, which is the state of Idaho minimum standard for living wages.
We will use an incremental, “tiered” approach in administering furloughs, where assignments will be scaled so individuals with the highest salaries are assigned the largest number of furlough days and thus the larger proportional temporary reduction in salary. The minimum furlough assignment will be four hours. Assigned hours of furlough will then increase, in one-hour increments, as salary levels increase. For example, employees making $30,000 will be required to take 7 hours of furlough, while those making $60,000 will take 15 hours. Individual furlough balances will be calculated this week and will be posted to each employee’s personal VandalWeb page: https://vandalweb.uidaho.edu
Consistent with State Board of Education policy, the furlough plan will become mandatory after a 30-day notice period, during which employees may appeal their individual furlough calculations through the appropriate process. Employees wishing to maximize their scheduling flexibility may choose to take furlough hours beginning Monday, March 8. As of April 1, the furlough plan will be mandatory and all eligible employees must complete their furlough hours by the end of their respective FY2010 contract period.
We are not alone in making the decision to furlough. Across the nation, both public and private universities are making similar choices in the face of economic conditions: Clemson University and Utah State University are enacting mandatory 5-day furlough programs for faculty and staff; Arizona State University employees will shoulder 10 to 12 days of furloughs; employees at the University of Georgia will take six days of furlough; and in Maryland, the entire university system is taking a 5-day furlough. California’s public universities are also requiring multi-day furloughs.
In making workload decisions and scheduling furloughs, I ask everyone to look at what is most essential to the functioning of program areas and for maintaining the level of quality that we and our students expect. Undoubtedly, taking furloughs will add another level of stress to our institution, but if we work together in a collaborative fashion, we can mitigate these issues and emerge from this period stronger over the long-term. I share a few more thoughts about the furlough program in an online video
In addition to cost-savings measures, we will continue to focus on revenue enhancement strategies, including growing enrollment, increasing private contributions, enhancing summer school and online programs, and increasing competitive research funding. Our strong spring enrollment and significant increases in research funding – along with a 30 percent increase in submitted proposals – point to the many ways in which we are making progress. In addition, University leadership and I continue to work with state leaders to ensure that our distinctive statewide mission is understood and valued.
Details of the furlough plan are available online. I also encourage employees and supervisors to make full use of our Employees Assistance Program if you require counseling or coping assistance over the next few months.
I appreciate your goodwill and good work during this challenging time for higher education and our country. Thank you for all that you do for students, our state, and on behalf of the University of Idaho.