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Wright State to eliminate 23 positions

WSU President labels budget woes a ‘challenging time.’

Wright State University is eliminating the positions of 23 employees, including six faculty members, as it continues to grapple with a budget crisis that has the board reviewing a number of options, including privatizing parking.

“I recognize that the uncertainty created by the university efforts to reorganize is real and impacts people’s lives,” President David Hopkins told faculty and staff in an email Thursday.

Wright State officials have been looking for solutions as its unrestricted reserve fund has dropped from more than $100 million in 2012 to $12.9 million as of June 30.

That fund is expected to be depleted by the end of the year, officials say.

The faculty positions being eliminated are instructors on one-year contracts who will leave the university after the spring semester finishes. Most of the instructors work in the College of Liberal Arts, WSU Spokesperson Seth Bauguess said.

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One instructor who received notice that his position would be eliminated said the email did not come as a surprise. Faculty were told an announcement would be made by the end of October if positions were cut.

“I had pretty well seen it coming,” said the instructor, who said he could talk candidly only if he remained anonymous.

The instructor blamed the administration for creating the university’s budget crisis, and said cutting faculty sends a message to the students that they are not a priority at the school.

“The rhetoric is there but the follow through is not,” the instructor said.

Doug Fecher, chair of the financial committee and vice chair of the board of trustees, said in April that the budget shortfall was the result of the state cutting higher education funding while freezing university tuition.

The cuts will also include 17 hourly or salaried employees at the university. Bauguess said he did not know exactly which 17 jobs were cut.

Eliminating the 23 positions, Hopkins said in his email, will cut down on the overlap of programs and processes undertaken at the university. It will also end programs that are not considered “our highest priorities,” Hopkins said.

“We will make every effort to move through this process as diligently and compassionately as possible, ensuring that our primary focus remains on the respectful treatment of our people so that we emerge from this challenging time better positioned to meet our objective of becoming the best university for the world,” Hopkins said in his email.

The layoffs come as the university considers outsourcing its parking operation.

Provost Tom Sudkamp said officials have met with a company that helped Ohio State University better monetize its parking, though nothing has been finalized.

If parking is outsourced, Wright State would enter into a contract with a company that would pay the university to handle its parking, Bauguess said. It would allow the university to get the money it makes from parking upfront.

“Parking has the largest opportunity for cash,” said Jeff Ulliman, vice president of business and finance.

The parking proposal was mentioned during a board of trustees financial committee meeting Friday as the board prepares to submit an updated version of its efficiency and affordability report to the state.

The university is already in negotiations to outsource management of student housing and the college’s child care development center.

Privatizing parking would initially cost the university $200,000 in negotiations, but it could bring in an estimated $6.8 million, according to the proposal.

“It makes sense we stay on top of any opportunity to augment our cash,” said Fecher. “I don’t want this report to become shelfware somewhere.”

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