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WNIJ's summary of news items around our state.

At Western Illinois University, Cutting 50 Faculty Won't Be Enough

Rich Egger
WIUM/Illinois Public Radio

The state of Illinois has cut funding to higher education each year for more than a decade.  Those cuts, combined with declining enrollment, will cause some people to lose their jobs at Western Illinois University at the Macomb and Quad Cities campuses.

“At this point I anticipate that it will be necessary to inform approximately 50 faculty of the elimination of their positions,” said Kathy Neumann, Interim Provost and Academic Vice President during a budget address delivered Tuesday by university administrators. “Additionally, several administrative positions and support staff positions will either be eliminated or have modifications made to their contracts.”

The cuts will take effect next fiscal year, which begins July 1, 2016.

WIU administrators estimate their plan will save the school around $7.5 million. But that’s not enough: They’re still looking for an additional $4 million in savings. 

“We’re looking at possible furloughs, and maybe a reduction in wages and those kinds of things,” President Jack Thomas told reporters after the budget address. "But those are the kinds of things that have to be bargained before we actually really go into that.”

Program cuts also are a possibility, though Thomas declined to say which ones might be on the chopping block. He said a task force led by Neumann will come up with a plan to eliminate, merge and/or restructure programs.

“This is difficult for all of us,” Thomas said. “That’s the reason we called everybody together, so that they could hear at one time what we have to say about our university.”

Western and other public universities have not received any state money for more than five months. Thomas urged people to lobby the governor and state lawmakers to approve a budget.

Leaders of the University Professionals of Illinois Local 4100, which represents WIU faculty, said they were not involved with the administration’s budget-cutting plan. Chapter President Bill Thompson called the elimination of jobs “a tragedy” and said the union will scrutinize the plan to ensure the administration is not violating UPI’s contract with WIU.

“We’re going to be keeping a very close eye on the process,” Thompson said. “We’re going to be doing everything we can, of course, to keep people employed. Unions don’t exist to let people lose their jobs, and we will make sure the administration is abiding by the contract.”

UPI Chapter Vice President Molly Homer said the union represents around 650 faculty members, so the elimination of 50 positions is a sizeable cut for the school.

“And it’s a hit to the community, too, because 50 people is a lot of people in the Macomb community -- and all their families as well,” Homer said.

Rich is the News Director at Tri States Public Radio. Rich grew up in the northwest suburbs of Chicago but now calls Macomb home. Rich has a B.A in Communication Studies with an Emphasis on Radio, TV, and Film from Northern Illinois University. Rich came to love radio in high school where he developed his “news nerdiness” as he calls it. Rich’s high school had a radio station called WFVH, which he worked at for a couple years. In college, Rich worked at campus station WKDI for three years, spinning tunes and serving at various times as General Manager, Music Director and Operations Manager. Before being hired as Tri States Public Radio’s news director in 1998, Rich worked professionally in news at WRMN-AM/WJKL-FM in Elgin and WJBC-AM in Bloomington. In Rich’s leisure time he loves music, books, cross-country skiing, rooting for the Cubs and Blackhawks, and baking sugar frosted chocolate bombs. His future plans include “getting some tacos.”
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