For 335 days, Binghamton University departments endured a hiring hold in an attempt to offset fiscal challenges the University is facing. Now, the hold has been lifted, according to a Dateline announcement on Tuesday, Oct. 8.
“I am pleased to announce that, as of today, we have lifted the hiring hold that began Nov. 7, 2018,” wrote University President Harvey Stenger in a statement. “In addition, the requirement to submit a request for an exception to fill a vacant position is removed.”
The initial hold came after SUNY faculty and staff were given raises through contract negotiations between SUNY and United University Professions (UUP), a higher education union for faculty, professional staff, contingent employees and retirees of the SUNY system. Based on the contracts, faculty will be given a 2-percent raise each year until July 2022.
However, New York state’s legislature initially refused to pay for the raises, leaving state universities and colleges scrambling to pick up the tab. Although the state eventually gave a one-time fund to help pay for the raises, individual universities were still forced to come up with the remainder of the funds. Donald Nieman, executive vice president for student affairs and provost at BU, said BU was able to raise enough money to cover the raises for this year from graduate tuition.
“Growth in graduate enrollment and graduate tuition revenue was probably the greatest single factor in allowing us to meet our revenue target,” Nieman wrote in an email. “We also had a very strong undergraduate recruiting year. Deans, faculty and staff in the graduate school and undergraduate admissions worked very hard to achieve this result.”
Last March, Stenger’s quarterly report stated that approximately 345 exemptions to the hiring freeze were granted from Dec. 1, 2018 to March 28, 2019, with a majority of the hiring hold exemptions coming from student employee and staff positions. Now that the hiring hold has been lifted, the University can continue its search for applicants to fill five leadership positions, including a new vice president for advancement, vice president for diversity, equality and inclusion, dean of the Watson School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, dean of students and a director of the Educational Opportunity Program.
At the beginning of each fall semester, the BU Council analyzes enrollment and revenue to determine if the University has met revenue targets for the academic year. Nieman said the Council reviewed the numbers last week and were confident the University could lift the hiring hold.
“We had a very successful year, but we will have to generate significant increased revenue in the next three years to meet the increased costs incurred because of the negotiated salary increases,” Nieman wrote. “Those increases are well-deserved, and, indeed, essential to allow us to recruit and retain top faculty and staff. But they do require us to generate significant revenue for the duration of the contract.”
According to Stenger’s fall 2019 president’s quarterly report, the University saw support from both the SUNY system and the state legislature last spring, with an increase in funding allocated for critical maintenance items. Although the budget issue has been alleviated for the moment, Stenger noted in the press release that efforts to increase revenue need to continue.
“We’re not completely out of the woods yet — we are still drawing on reserves and would like to see an increase in state support for our faculty and professional staff — but we are in a place where we can begin to make necessary hires and move forward on initiatives that will strengthen the campus,” Stenger wrote.