The Board of Trustees at Southern Oregon University unanimously passed a plan on Friday,21 April 2023 that they say will stop a budget shortfall that is expected to reach $14.6 million by the 2026-27 school year.
The updated plan was shown to the board by SOU President Rick Bailey. The university has been working on it since the fall, having multiple town halls to get feedback from the community.
The plan calls for letting go of about 24 workers. Nearly 82 full-time jobs will be cut in total, but most of those will be done by not filling job openings, retirements, voluntary quits, and contracts that don’t get renewed. The realignment plan also calls for asking for grants, putting an emphasis on philanthropy, and getting money from different sources.
Some board members got emotional at the meeting. They went back and forth between being sad about the employees losing their jobs and being hopeful about the future of the organization.
Trustee Andrew Gay, an associate professor and chair of the Communication, Media, and Cinema department at SOU, said, “I am very sad today because I know my vote will cause a lot of pain to people I care about.”
Bailey has been in his job for less than a year, but he said that it is his and the board’s job to make sure that the university is not in the same situation in five years.
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“That means that from now on, we will budget responsibly and realistically, but we will act in a way that changes that model by being ambitious, strategic, and entrepreneurial,” he said.
The university said that the affected workers will lose their jobs in four to fifteen months. Under the realignment plan that was passed, about 13% of the university’s employees will lose their jobs.
Daniel Santos, the chairman of the Board, said he’s glad the Board accepted the plan, which he said has more conservative budgeting.
“We’re not going to hold the lawmakers to higher standards. We won’t stop wanting more people to sign up. We do a lot of things in a very cautious way, so if we get more than what we expect, that’s good for us. It’s not like, ‘geez, if we didn’t get it, we’re gonna fall short,'” he said.
Some professors and students don’t like the plan, especially because it would cut the much-loved theater department at the university.
The university said that the cost management steps that the board approved will cut costs by $3.6 million this year and $9 million each year after that.
“This is not a doom and gloom situation,” Santos said. “Our future is going to be very good. So, we can make plans.”