Campus, News

Freeze stresses BU faculty despite exceptions to rule

The deans of various Boston University schools and colleges are feeling the effects of the hiring freeze, and though they said they support the policy, they said they cannot wait for it to melt.

In response to an uncertain economic future, President Robert Brown announced the hiring freeze on Oct. 1, halting future faculty hires and construction projects not already underway.

Vacancies continue to exist across campus, but the faculty is doing what it can to pick up the slack, College of Communication Dean Tom Fiedler said..

‘We’ve been able to at least work around the openings by either using existing staff and stretching further, paying them overtime or juggling schedules,’ he said.

The effects of the freeze have been less dramatic at COM, which dealt with hiring two critical faculty members earlier in the year. There are only four vacancies at the college right now, Fiedler said.

Though the College of Arts and Sciences has also experienced difficulties, necessary positions have been filled, CAS Dean Virginia Sapiro said.

‘In some cases, we cannot be as efficient or productive as we would hope,’ she said. ‘It is important to emphasize that any position that is required to protect the safety of people, facilities or equipment is being filled, and any position that is required in order to keep a program running is being filled.’

The Metropolitan College has also cooperated with the Office of the Provost to fill three critical positions, MET Dean Jay Halfond said.

The Distance Education director, a position BU’s entire distance education program depends on, was vacant at the time of the freeze, but Halfond petitioned the provost who ‘was quickly supportive.’

‘The Provost has been very accommodating in making exceptions for us,’ Halfond said. ‘But it’s been very painful. We needed the jobs that we’ve frozen, and the question is ‘How long can we wait?”

The answer to that question remains to be seen, but BU economics professor John Harris said the ‘medium-term future is pretty grim.’

‘We’re obviously in a recession, and it’s not going to be over in a hurry,’ he said. ‘My guess is that the market’s going to come back, but it’s probably going to be a couple years.’

Challenges

Though the freeze is supposedly intended to benefit students, colleges across campus are facing the challenge of maintaining quality with fewer teachers.’

‘Our staff and faculty continue to extend themselves beyond what is required of them in order to meet the challenges,’ College of Fine Arts Dean Walt Meissner said in an email. ‘It’s our goal to make sure the students will not notice much of an effect.’

Despite this challenge, Meissner said in an email interview in October that he thinks the effects will be felt more by faculty then the students.

‘The faculty [and] staff are more directly affected than the students because there is a residual result of ‘add on’ to all our loads,’ he said.

School of Management Institute for Technological Entrepreneurship and Commercialization Executive Director Jonathan Rosen said the freeze has slowed an already slow process of adding faculty.

‘It’s a long process to find very highly qualified individuals that we’re interested in inviting and are interested in joining our faculty,’ he said. ‘That’s a long process, even under the best circumstances.’

Despite the inconvenience, Rosen said he recognizes the necessity and importance of the freeze.

‘It is delaying the implementation of certain plans to some extent,’ he said. ‘But the overall feeling is that it’s in the best interest of the school and university to proceed this way.’

Precedents

Others outside of BU recognized the freeze as a necessary decision.

‘When I talk to people in the community, there’s a general sense of support, and people are impressed with the fact that our Board of Trustees and the president made this decision very early in the process,’ he said. ‘People see us as expressing leadership, not feeling sorry for us.’

Michael Smith, dean of Harvard University’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, froze hiring for the school on Nov. 25 and announced a salary freeze for faculty and nonunion staff on Monday, according to The Harvard Crimson.

Not all colleges have had their faculties affected, however. College of General Studies administrators only had to reduce a two-person alumni development team to a single person after the other left for another position at BU, Assistant Dean Stacy Godnick said.

The main impact for CGS was the postponement of a plan to renovate a fifth floor classroom into a lecture hall, Godnick said.

‘Certainly if we can raise the money from an alumni development perspective, it would be a project that would move forward,’ Godnick said. ‘At this point, it is a project that is frozen.’

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