Texas State has granted tenure to 34 faculty members, almost all of which were new hires, for the fall 2012 semester despite recent budget cuts and an employment freeze that took effect in May 2010.
A tenured faculty member is a professor who has achieved a secure position with the university that is only granted after a six-year probationary period. This type of promotion automatically comes with a significant salary increase.
While the cost to hire new faculty instead of granting tenure to existing faculty could provide some relief in the current budget constraint, Associate Provost Cynthia Opheim said Texas State has a new reputation to uphold as an Emerging Research Institution. She said there is justification in granting tenure to faculty during the budget shortfall in that tenured professors are more obligated to conduct research.
“We have to hire on the best that we can get with our new title as an Emerging Research University,” Opheim said.
Mike Wintemute, director of communications for the Texas State University System, said the hiring freeze was a result of the 82nd legislative session’s cut of $1.7 billion, nearly eight percent, from the state’s higher education budget in 2011.
The proposed state budget does not include funding for the increased number of students. Appropriating funding for faculty, which is around $60 million, is a different issue.
Gordon Thyberg, assistant vice president of budgeting, financial planning and analysis, said in the 2011 fiscal year, the university dropped plans for pay raises and the hiring of an additional $1 million in staff.
“It’s hard to cut when enrollment grows 17 percent in three years,” Thyberg said.
About halfway through the biennium, state officials have ordered universities to prepare their appropriations for the 2012 fiscal year. The order will take effect with a five percent deficit for each year, totaling ten percent for the biennium. Each division of the university is to make cuts in their department to then be approved by the university president.
Wintemute said the terminology of the hiring freeze is often misconstrued, as the stall on university employment is actually a “modified hiring freeze,” which allows the university to make hires and promotions under certain circumstances.
The modified freeze only applies to unnecessary staff and faculty hires, said Thyberg. He said hiring replacement faculty and promoting accordingly is of utmost importance.
“The modified hiring freeze was for staff only,” Thyberg said. “It’s imperative that we fill faculty positions to fulfill our primary mission – instruction.”
Opheim said it is also policy to replace a tenured faculty member when they leave or retire from the position. The majority of the new 34 tenured faculty members were replacement hires.
Additionally, the majority of the new tenured faculty members are also outside hires because tenure track faculty are almost always hired as a result of national searches, Opheim said. She said while faculty replacements are necessary and must be filled, the hiring process is an excruciating one.
She said each department and college establishes a search committee that screens applicants and interviews candidates. The departments then send their recommendation forward to be approved by the respective dean and Provost.
Opheim said budget cuts are just a minor setback in the face of the many positive things happening at Texas State.
“We don’t know if this new cut will actually take effect,” Opheim said. “This is the state’s worst case scenario, and we are just being careful.”
The modified hiring freeze is directly correlative to budget cuts and its expiration date is still unknown.