TO: University Community
FROM: Richard J. Helldobler, Interim President
DATE: February 3, 2017
RE: Preparations for a salary-savings program
Today I write to you with strong feelings of discouragement and frustration. It had been my hope that our state leaders would have found a way forward to providing us with either additional stop gap funding or a resolution to the budget impasse. Regrettably, that is not the case, and there does not seem a solution in the near future.
It has been 19 months since we have operated without a state spending plan, and as a result, Northeastern Illinois University is experiencing the worst budgetary climate it has ever experienced in its history. In spite of all this, we remain strong in our resolve to serve and provide our students with a quality education.
As I have communicated in the past, the University will complete the spring semester and hold the May Commencement ceremony. However, without stop gap funding or an adequate appropriation, we must find ways to stay afloat beyond that. A salary-savings plan, or furlough program, we have determined, is the most fair and least intrusive way for Northeastern to survive financially through the summer months until fall tuition dollars become available.
So, we have begun preparations to negotiate and roll out a salary-savings plan, or furlough program, starting in the spring semester. Those who took part in the program last spring know that a furlough plan was negotiated and is a mandatory unpaid leave of absence. Last time, we required one furlough day each week. For this spring, we have not yet determined what those requirements will be. To prepare for any negotiated plan, we have reached out to each of the five collective bargaining units that represent Northeastern employees, letting the leaders know that we would like to begin to negotiate the details and discuss how to implement such a program. I anticipate that these negotiations could last about four to five weeks, which would be roughly the amount of time before we would have to begin any agreed-upon plan to garner enough salary savings to remain solvent through the summer.
In addition to the unions, we have had discussions with other leaders at the University in the spirit of shared governance to alert them to our next moves given the budget outlook. These discussions included representatives from the Civil Service and Administrative and Professional Councils, Student Government Association, University Budget and Planning Council, University Advisory Council and the Faculty Senate.
For those of you who are Administrative and Professional or non-negotiated employees, I invite you to join me and the vice presidents at an open discussion on Tuesday, Feb. 7, from 3:05 to 4:05 p.m. in the Auditorium of the Main Campus. We can talk about our preparations and what a salary-savings program might entail for you. As always, if we are not able to talk to you in person, we invite you to submit your input or questions to the University Feedback Form. Additionally, this meeting will be available via livestream at the following link while the event is taking place: http://ift.tt/2l0fvee.
We are doing everything we can both in Springfield and here in Chicago to advocate for higher education funding and manage our finances judiciously. If you are so inclined, on Wednesday, Feb. 8, the University will provide bus transportation to and from Springfield from the Main Campus so that any interested student, staff or faculty member can participate in the Statehouse Rally to Save Higher Education. Please refer to the Jan. 31 Targeted Announcement about this event. I will be on the bus and hope to share the ride with many of you.
The only thing that will keep us from a salary-savings plan, or furlough program, is receiving adequate funding from the state. At the moment, that prospect looks grim. However, should we receive appropriate funding prior to the implementation of the plan, or after beginning the plan, we will hit the pause button, assess our financial situation, meet with appropriate leadership and discuss options.
These are very difficult financial times for Northeastern, but we will do what needs to be done to continue to provide for our students an exceptional learning environment. It is my hope that you will remain engaged in the process moving forward, whether through your union, various councils or faculty or student governance bodies. We need you at the table for these important discussions.
I want to express my sincere gratitude to you and each and every student and member of our faculty and staff for your continued commitment to Northeastern.