Pending unallotment announcements, University of Minnesota funding may be reduced an estimated $177 million over the next biennium, and as a result President Robert Bruininks has announced the need for some excruciating budgetary decisions. Most recently, he revealed the reduction of more than 1,200 paid positions at the University. Many of these will come in the form of natural employee attrition, whereby open positions go unfilled or early retirement incentives sweeten the pot for those soon to retire. Unfortunately for hundreds of University employees, attrition alone won’t bring solvency. That means layoffs.
During tough financial times at the University, emotions and animosities can run high. It seems as though University faculty inevitably become pitted against staff, both of whom would likely prefer to see the shortfall mediated by increasing students’ tuition. The polarizing nature of budget cuts means that a strong and dedicated leadership is all the more important for maintaining our sense of community at the University. Before a single employee becomes laid off, President Bruininks and the broader University administrative leadership should practice a little self-sacrifice. A mere 10 percent pay cut would suffice; anything to illustrate solidarity and empathy to those employees who will flat-out lose their job.
Dean Thomas Fisher and four others in leadership in the College of Design announced they would take voluntary 10 percent cuts in late May. Other college deans and administrators should follow suit before a swath of lower-earning University employees are dealt pink slips. The University could save hundreds of thousands of dollars if the 25 highest paid administrators took just a 10 percent pay cut. It’s highly inappropriate if not outright cruel for administration to dole out sympathetic platitudes along with pink slips when they haven’t yet taken a cut themselves.