Keeping the Eastern Oregon University Culture Intact
By Rory Noble
News and Features Editor
Monday, April 15, The Voice had the opportunity to sit down with President Robert Davies and discuss the hiring freeze recently implemented on campus.
The Voice asked if the current economic climate was the main cause of the hiring freeze or if other factors were involved.
President Davies said, “I think there’s a lot of factors involved in it and economics plays a part of it, our own fiscal and financial position plays a part of it…a lot of different things go into it. I wouldn’t say it’s one specific thing.” He continued, “There are short-term issues, there are long-term issues. What we need to do is to make sure that we have the structures; the administrative, the academic, services and programs put together that supports who we are as a university and what we’re moving forward to do.”
Davies also said that some positions can be considered during the next fiscal year with little problem, while other positions may be more important and need to be addressed sooner. He added that some positions being recruited for are far enough along in the search process that stopping them would not make sense. He did not specify what those positions were.
According to Davies, the hiring freeze should not affect other staff positions, student work programs, or graduate student assistants. The freeze is aimed more towards permanent teaching positions.
With EOU being well-known for its small class sizes, Davies was asked if he envisioned any significant affect in this area caused by the freeze. He replied, “A minor amount, I would say. Right now our average class size for all classes, on campus and off-campus, are actually down close at about 14.5 students or so per class. Do I want to take our 14.5 average class size and raise it all of sudden to make it 30 or 40? No.”
Davies also noted that the smaller class sizes are part of the EOU ethos and that is important to the administration, the faculty and the students as well. He said, “If we target certain classes to be between 20 and 24 in structure, to always make it that way does that make sense? Yes. Does it help with our financial condition? Absolutely.”
Davies said that he understands there is concern about this issue but that the intent is not to just dump extra things onto the professors. He said, “We want them to be the excellent teachers that they are, and we need to make sure that we provide the support for them to be the excellent teachers that they are.” Davies said he understands that the workload is always an interesting dynamic and can be very discipline-specific.
Rumors have circulated around campus concerning how the hiring freeze would affect less sought after programs at the university and if any programs would be reduced or eliminated.
When asked about this, Davies said, “Those are circular decisions and there is a process to look at those, and that’s going on. Our goal is to have the mix of majors and minors and concentrations that can be financially supported and meet the needs of our students in our region.”
Davies noted that there may be programs that can be concentrated or revamped to better suit student needs and the financial needs of the university. He said that those types of things are part of any organization. “What we don’t want to do in this process is dramatically eliminate programs that make us who we are and curtail opportunities.”
Concerning possible cuts to programs at EOU, Davies said, “Two years ago we did a sustainability plan. In that, there were a whole slew of recommendations, and those recommendations came forward through a process of review, through a process of discussions and deliberations and what-not.”
He added that most of the recommendations on the administrative side had been completed since the plan was drafted. Some of the academic recommendations had not been completed because of various factors. He did not state what those factors were.
Davies said, “If someone came to me and said ‘I hear you’re going to eliminate Department X’, right now, on my desk, on my plate if you want to call it that, I have not received a recommendation to reduce, shrink…whatever, Department X.”
The Voice asked if at this time any programs, whether major or minor disciplines, are planned to be cut. Davies replied, “Correct.”
President Davies concluded by saying, “We just have to have that balanced with what we’re able to do financially. Change is never easy.”