CARBONDALE — Southern Illinois University officials are instituting another round of temporary savings measures in an effort to conserve cash during Springfield’s budget standoff.
Interim Chancellor Brad Colwell announced the changes in a Monday message to faculty and staff.
“Even with the cuts already planned, the ongoing lack of a state budget means that we must further tighten our belts in order to support continued operations through the spring semester and the remainder of the fiscal year,” Colwell wrote. “It’s important to remember that the reduction may be larger than we have anticipated.”
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Colwell also announced departments are free to fund graduate assistantships during spring semester. Administrators had said those appointments were tenuous given the lack of a state budget.
“Graduate assistantships were part of the discussion because we could of course have generated significant savings there,” said SIU spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith.
“Graduate assistants do help us do the work of the university,” she added. “They are in classrooms, they’re in offices doing real, professional work for us. … Retaining graduate assistants makes sense from both a student perspective but also from a university-operations perspective.”
As outlined, the new savings measures:
• Require all full-time hiring to be approved by the chancellor. “All hiring … will be limited to positions necessary to maintain the core mission of the university and essential supporting services,” the note reads.
• Initiate a review of all so-called “extra-help positions.” SIU spokeswoman Rae Goldsmith described those posts as temporary full- or part-time support positions, often used to fill gaps in service. Vice chancellors will undertake the review. Colwell said all non-revenue-generating positions should be eliminated by Nov. 30, with some exceptions.
• Request all employees to keep spending down. “In the absence of state reimbursements, the careful management of expenses regardless of funding source is critical at this time,” the note reads.
SIU President Randy Dunn announced a first round of cuts in late-September.
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Goldsmith emphasized the savings measures are temporary. She said too many uncertainties exist to predict whether additional cuts, beyond those announced Monday, will be necessary. Even if a budget is approved soon, it remains unclear when that funding would be doled out to universities.
“It’s all moving and uncertain. The uncertainty is the issue,” she said. “We’re trying to manage to make sure we’re operating, to make sure we’re offering courses without knowing when the budget will come and when the money will come. This is really about conserving cash.”
Gov. Bruce Rauner has proposed slashing higher education budgets by 31.5 percent this year. Legislators have proposed less drastic measures – cuts of about 8 percent.