The Rock Valley College Board of Trustees voted Tuesday night to lay off 28 full-time faculty in an effort to reduce a projected multi-million dollar deficit.
The trustees voted 3-1 in favor of the faculty cut in front of the sometimes fractious crowd of about 200 packing the school’s Performing Art Room. Judging by the comments and reaction, the vote was not a popular one. Nor was talk of a tuition hike in the offing. But RVC President Doug Jensen says the college already had made other cuts, and there was nowhere else to go.
Jensen, himself a product of a community college, says he’s sympathetic to people's concerns; but the lack of state support, on top of declining enrollment and property tax revenue, has meant making some very difficult choices.
“There is a human being behind every one of these decisions," he says, "whether it’s a student, whether it’s a family member supporting a student, whether it’s a staff member here at the college, whether it’s a faculty member. So it’s never easy to look at that. But the challenge is that we have to look at the long-term survivability, the long-term stability of the college."
He says the college previously had cut support staff and has deferred purchases and maintenance in an effort to reduce the deficit.
Jensen says a new reality of flat or declining revenues has made fulfilling the college’s educational mission extraordinarily difficult.
"So the key for us is trying to find out what is that appropriate mixture that is needed by our community, that meets the needs of our students, and at the same time allows us to maintain the fiscal responsibility and deliver those services within the limited budget that we have,” he says.
Jensen says the school had to vote now because it was bound by contract and law to notify those affected 60 days before the end of the semester. Otherwise, Jensen says, RVC would have been obligated to keep them on for the next year, regardless of what the budget situation turned out to be.
Board Chairman Patrick Murphy will meet with students Thursday afternoon in an open forum to discuss the cuts to faculty and other matters under consideration, including schedule changes and the tuition hike.
Jensen says that, if student demand or new revenue justifies it, some faculty layoffs could be rescinded. And he says no adjunct or part-time faculty will be hired until all of those laid off are back at RVC.