UND sees hires alongside layoffs in budget cut process

GRAND FORKS -- From the time interim University of North Dakota President Ed Schafer announced a hiring freeze of sorts and the time he finalized the budget reductions, 34 people were hired at the university.

GRAND FORKS --  From the time interim University of North Dakota President Ed Schafer announced a hiring freeze of sorts and the time he finalized the budget reductions, 34 people were hired at the university.

In a campuswide message Feb. 9, Schafer said vice presidents would continue to have hiring authority in their respective areas but "any searches or recruitment efforts now in process are frozen until they can be reviewed to ensure they align with key priorities."

"As openings occur, we will consider shared services, consolidation and other restructuring possibilities prior to approving any hiring," Schafer wrote.

The announcement was the result of ongoing budget cuts at the university.

In the roughly three months that followed, a dining room attendant, two billing clerks, two professors, eight facilities workers and three secretaries were among those hired.


As of mid-May, about 20 people had also been laid off and UND had cut $21.5 million from its budget.

All decisions, including hires and layoffs, were made based on university priorities, Interim Vice President for University and Public Affairs Peter Johnson said, adding that divisions within the university were making cuts and hires inside the bubble of their own department.

"Each unit needed to come up with a 90 percent budget and to do what was needed to come up with that budget, sometimes unfortunately that means coming up with positions that need to be terminated, but that was not done in the context of what some other unit was doing," Johnson said.

Johnson said Schafer's announcement meant all hires had to be approved by division heads through the lens of whether it aligned with university priorities, something that had been practiced previously but with less scrutiny.

"I think the intent was that folks were put on notice if they were going to pursue hires, that's the filter they should use," he said.

There were 2,763 employees working at UND in the 2015-16 school year, according to data from the Office of Institutional Research. There were also 14,951 students enrolled.

"It's a  large organization," Johnson said. "You take UND out of Grand Forks and place it somewhere else in the state it becomes about the size of Jamestown (N.D.). It's like a city."

Those who were laid off could still potentially be rehired into other positions at UND, Johnson said, and the university also lost employees to staff and faculty buyout programs that haven't all been finalized.


In an email, Associate Vice President for Facilities Management Dave Chakraborty said the eight people he signed off on hiring from Feb. 22 to April 4 were all existing positions. Seven were custodial positions, where Chakraborty said the department has a high turnover rate, and one was a systems mechanic.

"The systems mechanic position had been open for a while, and it was filled so that we can repair heating and cooling equipment without undue delay," he said. "These positions are unique to facilities, and no other department has similar positions."

Director of Dining Services Orlynn Rosaasen said four positions were eliminated in his department as a part of the budget cuts, but the two assistant cooks and one dining room attendant hired during that process were existing positions that weren't targeted for elimination.

Hires made in the dining department went up to Vice President for Student Affairs Lori Reesor for approval, Rosaasen said

"The people had just quit on their own and obviously we would need to fill those positions," he said.

Dining room attendants prepare and clean up the dining room space and Rosaasen said it's important to have a clean place to eat and staff to make enough food. Dining salaries are funded through student fees rather than appropriated funds.

"It has a lot to do with being able to produce the food," Rosaasen said. "They're paying good money for these plans and if we don't have the staff to service them it's hard to justify why we're charging them what we're charging them."

A School of Law hire for a part-time instructor made Feb. 18 was because of a hiring decision made in January and signed off on Feb. 2.


Law school spokesman Rob Carolin said the official hire date for the one-semester adjunct professor was delayed until all paperwork was processed.

"It's almost like a seasonal hire," he said.

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