Campus Hiring Still on Ice

In March 2008, UC Irvine froze the hiring of all non-academic staff, while taking action to significantly slow the hiring of academic staff.

One year later, UCI still has not lifted the freeze, and the financial woes that first forced the university to implement the freeze have not changed.

According to a letter from Michael R. Gottfredson, executive vice chancellor and provost, UCI did not receive state funding for enrollment this year. In addition, the university experienced a mid-year reduction of about $4 million.

Due to these massive cuts, UCI has been forced to make some cuts as well — the first place being in its human capital.

“When a university needs to pull in the reins, it will first cut back on human resources,” said Richard Lynch, associate vice chancellor of the budget. “The greatest amount of money spent within UCI — about 62 percent of the university’s total expenditure — is used to pay for salary and benefits for all employees.”

The hiring of professors has been greatly limited since the freeze was first implemented. If a professor is to be brought on staff, his or her hire must first be approved by the executive vice chancellor.

According to Lynch the hiring freeze is not as menacing as it sounds. In fact, he claims it has been an extremely helpful tactic used to aid UCI in saving money, as well as keeping the university from having to fire and lay-off employees.

With the dramatic decrease in recruitment, hiring ads and training fees, the freeze has saved the university about $5 million across campus, while opening 150 positions, creating new jobs for students who are not affected by the freeze: graduate students, students whether or not they are eligible for work study and grant fund sources.

Katherine Haines, assistant dean of the School of Humanities, agreed that the problem does not lie in the lack of staff. Rather, it has to do with the budget given to the UCs.

“We’ve used the hiring freeze to help us meet the budget,” Haines said. “Decisions haven’t been made so much based on the hiring freeze, but by things being more prudent to do according to the budget … the hiring freeze has not prevented us from being able to hire the people we really needed to hire … Student services in the school have not been affected.”

Not all schools within UCI have reaped benefits from the freeze, however. David Leinen, assistant dean of the School of Social Sciences, claimed that things may be positive from a financial point of view, but the lack of professors available makes it difficult for students to sign up for the classes they need to graduate on time.

In order to cope with the lessened number of teachers, the School of Social Sciences has eliminated some special topic courses, while widening the amount of classes necessary for students to take.

Still, some departments have been spared of the freeze, among them the Disability Services Center.

Jan Serrantino, director of the center, stated that the reason her department was not involved with the freeze was because of its necessity within the student body.

“If there was a hiring freeze on aids for the blind and hard of hearing, there could be a major lawsuit for the university,” Serrantino said.

The hiring freeze is merely the tip of the iceberg, however. A number of road blocks still stand in the university’s way, one of them being the prospect of Proposition 1A not passing.

Proposition 1A is a spending-cap measure that is the key ingredient to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger’s budget reform plan.

If passed, the state would be required to put 3 percent of revenues into what is being called a “rainy-day” reserve fund that would regulate the level of spending each year and increase the amount of funding held in reserve.

Lynch stated that the regents have recently decided to support the proposition, even though the university does not usually engage in political advocacy.

If the measure is not approved, the budget will not stay in place, which could mean further cuts to the UCs.

The remaining length of the hiring freeze remains unknown as a lot depends on whether or not Proposition 1A will pass according to Lynch.

“I’m optimistic,” Lynch said. “While this is the worst economic situation I’ve ever been involved in at the UC, I think we must work through it. We have an obligation to our current students and our future students to do so.”