Bowles wants to furlough UNC faculty, not lay them off

Posted May 3, 2010 3:01 p.m. EDT
Updated May 3, 2010 6:05 p.m. EDT

— University of North Carolina President Erskine Bowles is lobbying Gov. Beverly Perdue for the authority to furlough faculty and staff across the system's 17 campuses in order to avoid mass layoffs.

Bowles is preparing for a 5 percent budget cut for the 2010-11 school year, a reduction that he has said would mean the loss of 1,000 jobs system-wide, with more than half of them faculty positions.

Perdue's proposed budget calls for the UNC system to receive a 1.6 percent increase for the coming year to fund enrollment growth and provide more money for student financial aid. Neither the House nor the Senate have rolled out a legislative budget proposal yet.

Last year, UNC eliminated 866 administrative jobs and about 40 faculty positions because of $294 million in state budget cuts.

Bowles said in e-mails to university officials last week that continued layoffs "will absolutely place our university on a glide path to mediocrity." Academic cuts would mean campuses will have to reduce course offerings, increase class sizes, cut lab and library hours and offer fewer academic advisers and counselors, officials have said.

Being able to furlough faculty and staff would provide chancellors with some flexibility to handle budget cuts without sacrificing personnel, Bowles said.

"I know neither option of firing or furlough is one we would either choose if not for the effects of this recession, but I need all the flexibility I can get to protect the quality of education we offer our students," he said in an e-mail to Andy Willis, a former lobbyist for the UNC system who now works in Perdue's office. "I'm prepared to take any criticism that would come to save these critical jobs."

The UNC system employs about 47,400 people, including about 15,400 faculty.