UK hiring freeze won’t include faculty positions

An immediate freeze on hiring at UK will not include faculty, a university spokesman said yesterday.

Earlier this week, UK President Lee Todd announced an immediate staff hiring freeze in a campus-wide e-mail. The freeze, which does not include hospital employees, is in response to a 3 percent budget cut for Kentucky’s state agencies and public universities through the fiscal year ending in June.

UK will lose $10 million in state funds as a result of the cuts. UK spokesman Jay Blanton said while the university is looking to save money with efforts like the staff hiring freeze, continuing to hire new faculty is essential to UK’s long-term goals.

Expanding the faculty is the only way UK can lower the student-faculty ratio and make classrooms smaller, Blanton said.

The Top 20 Business Plan calls for about 300 new faculty members by 2020, an increase of about 25 people every year. UK had a net increase of 60 faculty members for the 2007-08 school year.

It is still unclear whether 25 new faculty members can be hired, and whether the staff freeze will continue into the next school year, Blanton said.

The 3 percent cuts may be just the beginning of a longer-term drop in available state funds. Gov. Steve Beshear requested last week that UK and other state institutions prepare a budget by today to prepare for as much as 12 percent less state funding.

The governor will use that information in preparing his budget plan, set to be announced Jan. 29.

A cut of up to 12 percent of UK’s state funding is not certain, but it is a possibility, said Vicki Glass, a spokeswoman for Beshear.

“The governor is committed to higher education, but nothing is off the table in response to budget cuts,” Glass said.

Throughout his campaign, Beshear said he would fully support UK and its goal of becoming a top-20 public research institution by 2020. However, the governor has been surprised by the lack of available funds, Glass said.

“Of course he’s concerned (about higher education), but he walked into a situation four weeks ago where the cupboard is bare,” she said. “There’s nothing left.”

For the current $10 million reductions UK must make, the university has planned to use $5 million from reserve funding, and $5 million in cuts from programs and projects like the next renovation phases of the Chemistry-Physics and Biological Sciences buildings, Todd said in the e-mail.

Before UK can make any fiscal decisions for next year, Beshear must announce a proposed budget and the state legislature must decide whether or not to approve it, Blanton said.