Wednesday, April 25, 2001

Steger freezes most hiring at UC

Inflation, state funding blamed for $8 million budget shortfall

By Ben L. Kaufman
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        For the first time in a decade, President Joseph A. Steger froze most hiring Tuesday at the University of Cincinnati.

        The freeze starts May 1.

        Dr. Steger blamed inflation and Ohio's failure to increase UC's teaching subsidy for most of the expected shortfall of more than $8 million in UC's annual general fund budget.

        “Once we reach a balanced budget, I hope that we can lift the hiring freeze,” Dr. Steger said in a memo to trustees, senior aides, deans, directors and department heads.

        Spokesman Greg Hand said it was too early to talk about layoffs.

        Affected are the main campus, medical campus and College of Applied Sciences in Walnut Hills.

        It was unclear Tuesday what the freeze's impact would be since no one knows what vacancies will open.

        Raymond Walters College in Blue Ash and Clermont College in Batavia Township are exempt.

        UC's general fund budget, which will be about $355 million in the coming year, is funded by the state teaching subsidy, tuition, and other income sources. Mr. Hand said about 75 percent goes for staff and faculty salaries and benefits.

        For the past few months, Gov. Bob Taft and the General Assembly have pared money from the state subsidy.

        Now, according to UC finance vice president Dale McGirr, if the increase isn't zero, “it's in the region of zero.”

        Dr. Steger said that means UC “will have to absorb inflation and other expenses.”

        The freeze is just the beginning. Dr. Steger is cutting academic budgets about 2.5 percent and administrative budgets about 3.5 percent in the coming year.

        Exceptions to the hiring freeze include people who received UC job offers before May 1 and unspecified “special circumstances.”

        If negotiations have reached the offer stage, letters may go out before May 1 without breaching the spirit of the freeze, Mr. Hand said.

        Also exempt will be hiring that Dr. Steger's “hiring freeze committee” says is critical to UC or can be shifted from the general fund to other budgets.

        UC's last freeze began on July 1, 1991, during a recession. Tax revenues slumped and Ohio cut its subsidy. Mr. Hand said UC eliminated more than 1,000 positions during that freeze, including campus and hospital part-time jobs.

        That freeze ended in July 1993, coincidental with contract negotiations that led to the most recent faculty strike over wages.

        This year, faculty again will begin negotiating a new contract in midyear.

        Dr. Steger has warned the 2,000 or so faculty members covered by the contract there won't be much additional money because of the state's failure to increase UC's approximately $160 million state teaching subsidy.

        Members of the American Association of University Professors are expected to authorize a strike at their May meeting, something they do every three years.

        “Hopefully (the freeze) will be lifted as soon as possible and none of the money that will be recouped from the hiring freeze will be used in upcoming contract negotiations,” said John Brackett, associate professor of history and an at-large member of the AAUP.


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