Faculty furloughs cut costs and morale, provost says

(Photo Illustration by Dalton Wainscott | Collegian Media Group)

Editor’s note: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified Kathy Roeser, Human Capital Services supervisor for Arts and Sciences Shared Services. The Collegian regrets this error.

In response to budget declines resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, Kansas State implemented faculty and staff furloughs for the College of Arts and Sciences effective from Aug. 9, 2020 to June 12, 2021.

According to Human Capital Services supervisor for Arts and Sciences Shared Services Kathy Roeser, this round of furloughs affected 317 faculty and staff members within the College of Arts and Sciences. Faculty and staff could take furlough days or take a salary reduction for the furlough period, Roeser said.

“To date, the university has an estimated financial impact of $111 million in new costs or lost revenues from the still-evolving COVID impact, declining enrollment and uncertain state funding,” provost Charles Taber wrote in an email.

In response to the financial constraints, Taber said K-State developed budget reduction plans of various levels. These levels include eliminating vacant positions, implementing voluntary salary reductions, terminations and layoffs, reducing student employees and cutting operating expenses.

“This strategy of allowing deans and vice presidents to choose from a variety of budget levels provided maximum flexibility for those leaders to craft a budget reduction plan that best fit the needs of their colleges or units,” Taber said.

The furloughs the university administered since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic have affected 1,871 employees, resulting in approximately $8.65 million in short-term cost reductions, Taber said.

“The majority of our budget is spent on our people, faculty and staff,” Taber said. “No one wants to take any action that would impact our people in a negative way, but with severe budget reductions, difficult decisions must be made. Furloughs, along with other cost-saving measures, can be a way to preserve people’s employment.”

Taber said every effort has been made within different colleges to minimize the impact of the furloughs on instruction.

“Faculty and staff furloughs and terminations have a real-life impact on morale, education and research productivity and the well-being of our employees and their families,” Taber said.

Looking forward to 2021, Taber said in order to avoid further faculty and staff reductions, the university will need to drive enrollment, improve efficiency and continue seeking alternative funding sources to increase the university budget.