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Hiring freeze lifted

By Lee Graves

University officials have lifted a mandatory hiring freeze that was imposed in July in response to a state revenue crisis.

A freeze on discretionary spending also was lifted in a Jan. 21 memo sent to vice presidents and deans from Leonard W. Sandridge, executive vice president and chief operating officer. He cautioned that the economic outlook still is uncertain and that the state might impose new reductions.

“The action to lift the freeze is taken with the understanding that you will comply with the spending plans that have been approved,” Sandridge wrote. “Schools, departments and other operating units will find it necessary to continue self-imposed hiring and spending controls to meet their reduced budgets.”

The thaw obviously pleased many around Grounds. Some schools began freezing faculty hiring in the fall of 2001.

“When the [mandatory] freeze began we were unable to fill positions that had been vacated over the past couple of years,” said Karen Van Lengen, dean of the School of Architecture. “Naturally this placed considerable stress on our current faculty and student body.

“We now plan to move forward with one faculty hire for 2003-04 and to begin searches for either one or two positions for the following year. Filling these vacated positions is critical to continuing our excellent programs,” Van Lengen said.

The crisis that prompted the freeze is still ongoing. The General Assembly is struggling to put the state’s budget on course to meet a gap in revenue that is estimated at $6 billion over two years. Gov. Mark R. Warner confronted the situation during the summer after news that the state finished the fiscal year on June 30, 2002, with $237 million less than projected.

U.Va. officials acted on July 25 to freeze all state-funded hiring and discretionary spending. That was after the Board of Visitors approved a tuition increase and adopted a 2002-03 spending plan that reflected significant reductions in state support. Over the two-year state budget, U.Va.’s state aid has been reduced $91.5 million, with $51.6 million of that projected in 2003-04.

Given that the General Assembly might require more cuts, Sandridge asked deans and vice presidents to maintain maximum flexibility in their spending plans. He also urged care in making commitments that affect long-term obligations.

The freeze, on top of years without state-funded pay raises and University-wide belt-tightening, spawned some fears that it would be difficult to retain faculty tempted to accept job offers elsewhere.

That has not been the case, said Edward L. Ayers, dean of the College of Arts & Sciences.

“Our colleagues are not leaving us in droves as some had expected,” he said in an online message about the budget situation.

“In fact, no one has resigned from the Arts & Sciences faculty this year, and last year we had only 10 resignations, roughly one-third fewer than in each of the preceding two years.”

Despite the tight times, Ayers said support for graduate students has grown.
“Most graduate students now receive health insurance coverage despite its million-dollar-a-year cost. Last year, we received from the provost a permanent $400,000 addition to our graduate student budget. This year, we also received a portion of the tuition surcharge revenue for graduate support,” he said, referring to a $385 surcharge added to tuition for the spring semester.

Another tuition hike in April is a foregone conclusion. Ayers sees that as the basis for a new financial footing.

“Basing our funding expectations on tuition prices that more accurately reflect the true cost of delivering a U.Va. education is far better than being buffeted by the politics of state funding,” he said.


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of the University of Virginia

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