Budget cuts limit hiring, travel

By Jami Peterson

A slice out of NIU’s budget left some academic departments with fewer employees and no travel funds.

The hiring freeze coupled with a slash in funds used to bring prospective employees to NIU for interviewing has left some departments with the inability to replace leaving staff members.

However, Assistant Provost for Personnel Natalie Clark said although a hiring freeze has been placed on all NIU departments, searches still progress for next year’s employees.

“This is the season when people are coming to be interviewed,” she said. “If (a department) waits until July, all candidates worth having will be gone. You do the hiring while you can.”

Each department decided what to cut in the budget. She said she assumes most departments did not cut all of their interviewing funds.

Physics Department Chairman Richard Preston said he will need to replace two retiring employees next fall. However, he said he was asked to limit the number of people brought in for interviewing.

“We expect to have these positions filled for the fall,” he said. “I don’t know what we’ll do about interviewing. No department will be allowed to bring in many people for interviews.”

Preston said NIU works with Argonne Research Laboratory in DuPage County, and hopefully they will chip in for interviewing. New employees would spend part of their time at NIU and the rest at Argonne, he said.

The physics department received the worst cut in equipment funds. Preston said his department normally receives $60,000, but was allowed to spend only $19,000 this year.

“We need to replace equipment, but simply aren’t able to,” he said. “We could use almost any money.”

Economics Department Chairman Prem Laumas said his department lost one full-time faculty member, $20,000 for temporary employees, all remaining travel funds and some funds for commodities due to the budget recision.

“We should be interviewing, but we can’t because of the budget problems,” Laumas said.

But Journalism Department Chairman Donald Brod said the cut did not affect his search for a new department chairman.

Three candidates have already been brought to NIU and interviewed. “If the search is successful, one of them will begin July 1,” he said.

The recision mainly took funds from commodities and travel, Brod said.

Lettie Wenner, chairman of the political science department, said her department is not recruiting anyone at this time. But she said she is feeling the effects of the cut.

“We’ve taken (money) out of places we can’t afford to, but we have to,” she said.

Sociology Department Chairman Gian Sarup said he was not affected in terms of hiring. But if the cut becomes permanent, the department might lose some temporary faculty, he said.

Most of the cut was taken out of the travel budget, and a “sizable” portion of it from commodities, he said.

“We completed hiring last year. We’re concerned if the cut becomes permanent,” Sarup said.