ASU eliminates 27 positions, reduces pay for 22 others

ALAMOSA — After a two-and-a-half-hour executive session, and months of analyzing data, the Adams State Board of Trustees unanimously approved eliminating 27 positions and reducing salary of 22 employees during their meeting on Friday as part of their financial action plan to get the university on track monetarily. The plan lets the university reach its $2.7 million annual net revenue goal and comes just a day after approving tenure and sabbatical leaves for faculty.

“This has been a well-defined and thoughtful process that started really in August of last year,” said ASU Board of Trustees Chair Cleave Simpson. “There are pros and cons of taking this long. We have been very deliberate, very thoughtful, but it requires a ton of patience by everybody involved and so I appreciate the anxiety that that patience creates.

“I do feel like the university is headed in the right direction.”

The majority of the $2,701,526 target was reached by $2,181,294 in personnel changes. Academics received the brunt of the cuts, having their $22.3 million budget reduced by $1,279,099—a 5.7 percent reduction. The $13.4 million administration budget saw a 5.6 percent reduction with $740,838 in cuts. Athletics’ $4.5 million budget was reduced 4.4 percent in $197,954 personnel changes.

As discussed in their March meeting, the non-personnel changes equal $520,232. That number includes turning ASU’s adventure sports program of NCAA varsity cycling and rock climbing teams into a club sport, saving $100,000.

During the public comment portion at the beginning of the meeting, graduating ASU student Mark Johnson advocated for preserving the adventure sports program. Johnson said that while the program doesn’t attract a large amount of athletes, it does recruit the same caliber as the school’s cross country team and they won’t attend if it is not a varsity sport.

“Just last October we had a rider get 11th place at the mountain bike nationals for NCAA Divisions I and II combined,” Johnson said. “Think about if we had the 11th best football player in the country across all divisions—that would be a big deal.

“It’s meant a lot to me…It sucks to see it go.”

Also discussed at the meeting were how other departments could utilize adventure sports for new academic programs. However they would have to go through the same process used whenever new classes are added.

“We have a lot of talent in this program and I appreciate the thought that has gone into preserving the opportunity to grow that program going forward,” said Trustee Reeves Brown, “and yet the recognition of being realistic of when it’s appropriate to grow a program.”

Other non-personnel adjustments involve eliminating the rugby and men’s volleyball clubs, stopping the reportedly abused milestone scholarship program and shrinking general fund contributions to departments. Reducing the planetarium’s discretionary funding by half along with the frequency of drug testing for student athletes saves a total of $8,000. ASU is also reconfiguring a portion of athletic scholarships into academic merit scholarships and room and board waivers, saving $250,000.

A total of 45 people are impacted from the staff changes, which equals 11 percent of ASU’s fulltime benefits-eligible workforce. Two positions were eliminated in the president’s office, which impacts two people. However, the changes that cut three from the chief operating officer’s department affects five people and the vice president for student service’s five eliminated positions only affects two people. Twelve people in the athletics department are impacted by the plan and one position has been eliminated. Academics, which saw the largest cut, therefore sees 24 people impacted as 16 positions are terminated.

The discrepancy between the numbers is because some eliminated positions were already vacant or were moved to a different department and others are receiving a reduced salary with 10-month, instead of 12-month, contracts. Of the 27 jobs cut, nine are vacant positions that won’t be filled. Two people retired and seven accepted the voluntary separation incentive plan. The plan was only available to tenure staff and classified personnel that met eligibility requirements such as working at ASU for a minimum of five years.

Nine people were laid off, including two tenure faculty and a classified employee that were eligible for the VSIP but rejected it. Laying off the tenure employees required a separate action by the board in addition to approving the entire financial action plan.

“I am confident that it is going to be putting us in a much stronger place,” said ASU Interim President Matt Nehring. “My hope is that the stronger place comes in six months and that we don’t have to be back here a year from now.”

“These decisions are part of a longer term plan to make the university stronger and sustainable,” Brown added. “I just want to thank Dr. Nehring and his team and faculty at all levels that have participated in this. None of these decisions, either collectively or individually, are easy because of the human element.”

“It is a sobering experience to go through given all the positive things we got to do yesterday,” Simpson said.

ASU has published an FAQ about their financial action plan. The document can be read online here.

Graphic courtesy of ASU.