Wednesday, March 3, 2010


at the University of Minnesota?

A furlough (from Dutch: "verlof") is a temporary leave of absence from employment, duty in the armed services, or from a prison term. It may be voluntary or involuntary.

Unpaid time off given to government employees for the purpose of reducing the budget.

Faculty Consultative Committee
Thursday, February 25, 2010

The President's budget proposal

a. The 27 pay periods will all be paid, for $41 million.

b. There will be 3 furlough days for all employees during the holiday period and the University will be closed except for essential services, pending faculty and Board approval.

c. Senior officers (dean and above) will have six furlough days.

d. Employees will have the opportunity to volunteer furlough days, to a maximum of 10 (including the 3 required).

Professor Gonzales inquired if the President intended to ask for a vote on the furlough proposal for the faculty. Provost Sullivan noted that under the provisions of Section 4.5 of the Regents policy Faculty Tenure—the tenure code—approval of the Faculty Senate is required ("If the University or a collegiate unit is faced with financial stringency that does not amount to a fiscal emergency, the president may propose a temporary reduction or postponement in compensation to be allocated to faculty in accordance with a mathematical formula or similar device").

Professor Gonzales and several other Committee members advised him that to bring the proposal to the March 4 meeting and simultaneously ask for a vote would be unwise, because it would give faculty members no time to consult with their colleagues or to think about the proposal or the larger budget issues in which the furlough is embedded.

The Committee agreed to convene a special meeting of the Faculty Senate on March 25 to consider for the tenured and tenure-track faculty the proposal to adopt a 3-day furlough in December, 2010.

Vice President Brown explained that the President believes the three days of furlough for everyone is fair. The furloughs help to allow the 2% compensation pool and that units will be able to make their own decisions about new hires, equity, retention, and the like. A salary freeze means units have no ability to smooth out issues of equity, retention, and salary compression, and if a freeze goes on too long, the situation can get far out of line. The increase will also help units retain their best employees. A recent study in the Harvard Business Review suggested that in tough economic times corporations need to maintain their investment in research and development and in their assets, and must control costs. For the University, its key asset is its people.

Provost Sullivan said that the most important principle of strategic positioning, from five years ago, was investment in people. There was a special compensation fund for faculty and there has been investment in students in financial aid. The compensation increase is consistent with that principle. He recalled a discussion with his counterparts at the other CIC institutions; all of them plan to deliver salary increases.

Professor Isetts suggested that in addition to the Senate discussion of the budget, there be an open forum.

Professor Hanna had two points. First, one comment she is hearing from colleagues is that the furloughs are seen as a one-time fix; what plan is there for the next biennium, assuming there continues to be bad news? Provost Sullivan said he tried to address that question with his description of the multi-year planning process that is underway. The furloughs are one-time, and if needed again in the future, they would trigger another vote by the Faculty Senate.

Vice President Carrier said that because number of furlough days has been reduced to 3, they believe that 3 days for everyone is a reasonable way to share the pain. Provost Sullivan added that that is another reason the President wanted the 2% compensation pool: Without it, the disparate impact of furloughs is greater and the compensation can be used to help level out the effects of the furloughs. All employees will see a net increase under the President's proposal, he said, and that would not be the case if there were no salary-increase funds.

Professor Yust said that after dealing with retention and compression issues, about half the faculty will receive less than 1.5% increases, so will not see a net increase. But the increase will be in their base salaries, Vice President Brown pointed out. The net result, Professor Yust said, will not be an overwhelmingly positive impact. In general, she continued, faculty members have questions, beliefs, and assumptions all over the map; the administration will need to be able to explain well or people will not be able to support the institution in the way that will be needed.

I think this discussion, with emphasis added, speaks for itself.

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