OSC OKs possible univ. shutdown

By Suzanne Tomse

With some reservation, the Operating Staff Council voted Sept. 11 in favor of a possible shutdown of the university Jan. 4 through Jan. 11, which could save NIU more than $300,000.

OSC President Dianna Strink said the proposal is just “part of a package” of 10 different recommendations the university is looking at in order to deal with a 4.5 percent base budget cut.

“The administration has estimated that the shutdown, combined with the week-and-a-half off at Christmas, will generate nearly a $400,000 savings in utility dollars,” Strink said.

Strink said if the proposal is implemented, the operating staff would either use vacation time or go without pay during the days of the shutdown.

Although the council voted 6-3 in support of the possible shutdown, Strink said she has received negative reactions to the recommendation.

“In general, the employees are quite opposed to the shutdown. It is a loss of another benefit,” she said.

Because of the budget cuts, the operating staff did not receive raises this year, and they lost their comprehensive dental plan and their health plan was changed, Strink said.

OSC member Shey Lowman, production supervisor for university publications and printing, said, “All I can say is that it (the shutdown) will be causing hardship for people. I did not support it because it impacts those people who can least afford it, such as single parents and new employees.”

Under the proposal, employees who are short of the number of vacation days needed during the shutdown will be able to “borrow” days they would be receiving in the future, Strink said. However, some staff members are concerned that the timing of the vacation would not coincide with their children’s holiday break.

Strink also said some faculty members and deans have expressed concern over the possible shutdown. She said the faculty members are worried they will be behind in schedule when they return Jan. 11 and will have to work overtime.

Another OSC member Lucy Friend, business and operations secretary, said she supported the proposal with “reservation.”

“I guess the thing I felt badly about was we didn’t have time to survey our constituents. Many are opposed to it (the proposal) and many are for it. It was very hard to vote on behalf of others when you really do not know how they feel. I felt that under the circumstances it was the best thing to do,” Friend said.

Strink said NIU President John LaTourette has not made a final decision concerning the shutdown, but the OSC expects to hear from him by Friday.