John Petersen & Roger Brown
After a budget decrease this year, the UT system is preparing for even further cuts next year, and UTC officials say they may outsource jobs, cut academic programs and hire fewer tenured professors.
“We will face some tough times,” said University of Tennessee system President John Petersen, who was in Chattanooga Tuesday for a visit to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga campus. “There is a lot of strategic planning going on.”
Lowered state appropriations this year, which triggered proposals for three academic program phase-outs at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville and prevented the system from offering salary increases to faculty and staff, could be trimmed by another 3 percent or more next school year, Dr. Petersen said.
Reacting to fewer higher education dollars, UTC Chancellor Roger Brown said school officials closely will be examining how the school does business.
This year, Phil Oldham, vice chancellor for academic affairs at UTC, will take a close look at the university’s academic programs and develop standards and measures for performance and productivity that may reveal the need to cut programs in certain areas, Dr. Brown said.
Also, UTC officials will examine and tweak the school’s core mission to ensure programs being offered are consistent with UTC’s role as a metropolitan campus, he said.
Staffing changes also may be on the horizon, Dr. Brown said.
Maintenance services and groundskeeping jobs, which now are provided by UTC and offer state benefit packages, may be outsourced in the future to save costs, Dr. Brown said.
Over the last eight years, 25 percent of operations on campus have been outsourced, including campus food services, said Richard Brown, vice chancellor for finance and operations.
“We will look internally at operations for a possible outsourcing and outsource partnership that might generate some savings for the university as we look at the possibility of reduced state appropriations, but we always do that with a sensitivity for our employees and delivery of quality services,” Mr. Brown said.
The university also may shift its focus from hiring tenure-track faculty to contracted faculty that will be ensured a job and benefits for between one and three years, Dr. Oldham said.
He said 20 percent of about 400 faculty members at UTC are classified as nontenure track lecturers, and that percentage has grown over the past five years with the school’s enrollment increases.
Dr. Oldham said contracted faculty cost less to employ than tenure-track faculty, who typically have more responsibility and require a greater commitment from the university.
“This is not unusual on university campuses,” he said. “The percentage we have of non-tenure track faculty is pretty typical, actually.”
Yet some faculty members say increasing the number of adjunct faculty, who teach without benefits, and contracted faculty will harm UTC’s mission in the long run.
“The faculty that is aspiring to tenure has a long-term commitment to the academic goals and reputation of the institution,” said Pedro Campa, president of the faculty senate at UTC. “You cannot have a revolving-door faculty and keep your academic reputation. You can be a technical school and have transient faculty, but that is not what we think of ourselves at UTC.”
More troubling, Dr. Campa said, is the possibility that, if more faculty become contracted, academic programs will have shorter life spans.
“In the abstract, this means that no program is firm, the university will expand and contract with the fads of the time,” Dr. Campa said. “If something is popular, let’s hire a few instructors and when it goes down, cancel it.”
An ebb and flow of curriculums based on the whims of demand will lack the depth and rigor that accompanies long-standing and established academic programs, he said.
“(UTC) is not a Wal-Mart,” he said.
Video: State university budgetAt a Chattanooga Times Free Press editorial board meeting Tuesday, University of Tennessee President Dr. John Petersen and University of Tennessee at Chattanooga Chancellor Dr. Roger Brown discussed funding for the state's university system.
Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...