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Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

The Student News Site of Sonoma State University

Sonoma State Star

    Budget deficit leads to cuts in staffing and repurposing spaces on campus

    At a recent budget meeting on March 16, it was announced that Sonoma State is in the process of cutting back on staff. Sonoma State University President Mike Lee confirmed these staffing changes in a memo to all SSU employees on March 10 in preparation for the budget forum. 

    Since these vacant positions are not getting refilled, Lee said in the memo that shared services and new approaches are critical. These shared services are believed to have benefits including the reduction of administrative expenses, improving services, increasing efficiency as well as reassigning and relieving the workload in overtaxed units. 

    Lee announced on March 10 in a letter to staff that the University’s administrative reorganization plan, through the Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP), did not meet their savings goal and instead experienced a deficit. 

    “The Voluntary Separation Incentive Program (VSIP) ended with a total of 47 participants, of which 7 were faculty and 40 were staff. The salary and benefits associated with VSIP and vacant positions added up to $4.3 million to use for the operating fund deficit minus any rehires that I authorize. Our goal was $9 million from all personnel reduction, and with attrition and VSIP, we have reached $5.2 million, covering less of our deficit than we anticipated.” said Lee

    To address the deficit, the university has identified a limited number of staff and faculty positions open for hire. Lee stated that he asked VSIP to make note of the critical positions that need rehiring. The positions that are not critical will not be rehired. 

    A plan for repurposing buildings is currently in development. This means that some departments on campus will have reduced staff to use campus resources more efficiently. 

    “The entire process of delivering services is being re-looked at,” said Vice President of Administration and Finances, Monir Ahmed. 

    When asked if there will be a list provided of staff from departments that are being cut. Ahmed stated that there is no direct correlation of which staff is being cut and that a list can’t be provided at the moment for privacy reasons. 

    “The list is available in the way of function in departments and not necessarily individual,” said Ahmed. Many of the positions that will be let go have not been uncovered, according to Ahmed.

    Ahmed emphasized that the university is “realigning the programs creating shared services opportunities…partnering with systems or offices for broader shared services.”

    The plan for repurposing buildings and sharing services will rely on feedback from staff from all levels at SSU. Karen Moranski, who is the provost, vice president for academic affairs and chief academic officer, states “The conversation needs to happen at the unit level, school level, and department level.”

    The process for collecting reorganizing ideas from staff will include different methods such as surveys, chats, and forums. 

    In response to the staffing cuts, Julia Barns, who is the director of Business and Operations for the school of Science and Technology, expresses her concerns saying “in 60 days, I have six people walking off the job…I need to advocate for those that are left, we need to know what is going to happen a little sooner in the business side of things.” 

    There is no definitive plan that the university has to ensure a smooth transition once staffing is cut. However, Lee and Ahmed reassured concerned staff that there will be a task force to assist departments on campus with these changes. 

    Lee stresses the importance of cutting back on staffing to address the budget deficit despite the fact that it won’t completely solve the problem. 

    “We can’t put staff in every office,” said Lee. 

    Some students have weighed in on the upcoming cuts in staffing. Chance Lujan, a third year transfer student studying history stated that there could be more stress to those in positions not being cut. 

    It was not addressed at the budget meeting how these cuts and repurposing of buildings will affect students. However, students are hoping that the budget deficit does not impact them tremendously. 

    “Students should not have to pay the price for enrollment decline,” stated Lujan.

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