Dear Commons Community,
The news continues to be troublesome in Illinois’ public higher education system. Yesterday, in a news release, Western Illinois University announced the layoffs of 24 faculty members, including seven with tenure. In making this decision, the university’s Board of Trustees cited dips in enrollment and state funding. Two academic-affairs positions are also among the cuts. An additional 62 teaching positions — which either are vacant or will be vacated due to retirements or resignations — won’t be filled, according to the news release. As reported by The Chronicle of Higher Education:
“The layoff notices, which will be sent to faculty members today, give a one-year warning, as stipulated by the university’s contract with the union, the University Professionals of Illinois. Cathy Early, chair of the Board of Trustees, said in the news release that more cuts may follow, although the university’s president promised growth in other areas.
“As the state returns to what we hope is an era of fair and predictable funding, Western is making greater investments in high-demand programs,” the president, Jack Thomas, said in the news release. He also said the university would announce plans next month for investment in academic programs.
Because of a historic state-budget stalemate, public colleges and universities in Illinois went some two years without state funds. Regional campuses like Western Illinois were especially hard hit. The state’s public colleges received some emergency funding, but the political deadlock forced many to lay off faculty and staff members.
During the budget crisis, more than 100 faculty and staff members were laid off at Western Illinois. The university also laid off two tenured professors. As the crisis worsened, Illinois students headed for the exits, leaving the state in droves to pursue their college education elsewhere.
“We are realigning resources to further build upon Western’s programs that are highly sought after by our students and employers,” Early said. “Throughout the institution’s history, Western has readjusted according to the times. The current realities facing public higher education call for realignment.”
Sad day for Western Illinois!