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May 10, 2013

Union College cuts 11 jobs

10 full-time positions eliminated in move to slash expenses

BARBOURVILLE — In a move to slash administrative expenses, Union College has eliminated 11 jobs, according to Melissa Reid, director of the Barbourville college’s Office of Communications.

Of those positions, 10 were full-time jobs with seven being staff members and three being faculty members. Also, one part-time position was cut.

While the faculty jobs were eliminated about two weeks ago, the staff cuts came this week with notices being delivered to those workers Wednesday and Thursday. While some people whose jobs were eliminated were relatively new to the college, Reid said others had been there for some time.

In determining which faculty members would be cut, Reid said the faculty members’ course loads and seniority were among the factors examined.

“Individuals weren’t targeted. It was what made sense economically,” Reid said.

The college’s board approved the budget cuts although Reid said department supervisors were given the difficult task of determining which positions could be cut.

Severance packages were offered to those people whose positions were eliminated.

The cuts are part of a restructuring at the university that aims to make operations more efficient.

“If enrollment is good in the fall, and we expect it to be, we can hire some people back,” Reid said.

Discussions were ongoing for some time about how the college might cut costs. The option of raising tuition was quickly discarded since Reid said tuition would have had to been raised by up to 30 percent to gain similar economic benefit.

While enrollment has been fairly steady at the college – except for a slight dip this past fall many colleges experienced – the college is among many that has struggled with a “tough balancing act” to control costs, Reid said. The college’s biggest cost is in administrative expenses. To help contain those expenses, Reid said about 10 vacant positions at the college haven’t been filled.

Also, prior to the job cuts, Reid said one math instructor who had been undecided about retirement chose to leave to save a job. Also, a staff member who had been considering leaving chose to resign.

“It could have been much worse,” Reid said of the job cuts.

All of the college’s departments have experienced budget cuts, and the eliminated staff positions impacted several different departments, too, Reid said.

When asked, Reid said the budget concerns wouldn’t impact the college’s new program that will offer more than 200 freshmen the opportunity to get free tuition during their final semester if they meet certain conditions. She also emphasized that program, which aims to increase enrollment and retention numbers, had nothing to do with the position cuts.

“If enrollment goes up, that program will be self-sustaining,” Reid said.

Reid said the mood on campus Thursday was “sad,” although some relief may have been felt by the remaining staff and faculty members.

“Everyone’s stress level is better because we know that there are no more announcements,” Reid said. “Now I think people are more relaxed.”

However, Reid did say the campus has “a deep sense of sadness.”

“These are local people and they feel like family.”

Union College President Dr. Marcia Hawkins was not available for comment Thursday since Reid said Hawkins was traveling out-of-state in an area with poor cell phone service.

According to its website, the private, liberal arts college was founded in 1879 and is affiliated with the United Methodist Church.

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