Wednesday, January 30, 2008

The Stuff of Insomnia

for a college/university educator:

I'm familiar with more than a few state universities/colleges in this area. None are known for overstaffing. And the understatement of the year is that none are known for overpaying faculty and staff. Quite the contrary. Why does the governor fail to trust the presidents or administrators of these institutions? Is this an attempt to override the better judgment of administrators by denying thier requests for exemptions, therefore forcing these institutions to 1) increase the number of students per course, 2) increase the course load of faculty and the student/work load of support staff, and 3) decrease the support services and quality of education that Louisiana's college students receive for their tuition dollars?

Please let me know if there is a better explanation. I really, really want to be wrong about this.

State colleges pressing for thaw in hiring freeze

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP)-- Louisiana's colleges are pressing for at least a partial waiver of Gov. Bobby Jindal's hiring freeze for their campuses, saying the freeze could hinder their recruitment of new faculty, instructional staff and campus police officers.

So far, the schools' requests have been denied by Jindal's top budget officer, Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis, who on Monday rejected their latest proposal. The colleges can hire people -- but only with Davis' approval on a case-by-case basis.

Commissioner of Higher Education Joseph Savoie said the public colleges and universities asked the governor's budget office to lift the hiring freeze for filling teaching jobs, security positions and other student services staff, like counselors and advisers.

The hiring would need approval of the college system presidents, rather than just campus administrators, and the presidents would have to report the hiring to Jindal's budget office but wouldn't need Davis' permission, under the proposal Savoie recommended.

"We think that will help to speed the process up, and the system presidents are supposed to be in charge of hiring anyway," Savoie said.

Davis denied the request and said university hirings still will need approval from her office before the jobs can be filled. In a letter to Savoie, she said she would work to quickly review requests for hiring when the universities fill out the required paperwork.

"We understand the vital role our higher education institutions have in Louisiana. Upon receipt, we will expedite your exemption requests," Davis wrote.

Jindal froze state agency hiring on his first full day in office, saying he wanted to try to put limits on government spending and save money. Davis must sign off on new hires after the agencies explain why they want to fill the jobs.

Savoie said the hiring freeze comes in the midst of the heaviest faculty recruiting season for universities and as the technical college campuses were readying to hire their adjunct teaching staff.

One exception to the freeze has been granted so far. Davis lifted it for direct patient care positions in the LSU public hospital system after the hospitals said the freeze could harm efforts to rebuild health care systems in post-Hurricane Katrina New Orleans. Last week, Davis gave LSU System President John Lombardi permission to fill open, patient-care jobs.

Savoie said higher education institutions first asked for a blanket exemption to the hiring freeze -- a request also rejected by Davis. Negotiations have continued with Davis since then, he said.

"It may come down here with a big red 'No,' but we'll keep trying," Savoie said of the colleges' requests.

The hiring freeze was enacted in the middle of a budget year that brought millions of new dollars to the state's public colleges and universities, designed to expand and improve educational programs. Savoie said many of the schools planned to use the money to hire new professors and instructional staff.

In a letter to Davis, asking for the blanket exemption that was denied, Savoie said the governor's order will cripple schools' abilities to follow-through on their plans to spend the new influx of money.

"For too long the administrators of our institutions have had to make tough choices and sacrifices simply because adequate funding was not available," Savoie wrote. "It is somewhat ironic that now that funding is available, we may still be restricted in our ability to use those resources in securing the personnel so vital to our mission."

Davis spokesman Michael DiResto said the process for requesting individual exemptions to the hiring freeze isn't complicated or time-consuming. He said there's no evidence requiring the extra paperwork and review will jeopardize the colleges' abilities to fill needed positions.

"It has not been demonstrated that this review process for exemptions is going to in any way jeopardize or cripple anything," DiResto said.

And another thing: The logic in this last sentence just kills me.

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