In what he calls the hardest decision he has had to make since taking the helm of The University of Texas-Pan American in January 2010, President Robert S. Nelsen announced today (June 28) that 26 staff members would be laid off as part of a reduction in force resulting from an unprecedented $17.3 million cut in the university's budget over the next two academic years.
In a letter to the university community, Nelsen told faculty, staff and students that the balancing of next year's budget has come at a great cost -- the loss of 26 staff members from the UTPA family.
"I wrote that letter with a heavy heart and great sadness," Nelsen said. "I've been laid off; I know how much it hurts. I've laid off people; I know how much that hurts. My heart goes out not only to the staff members who are losing their jobs, but also to their supervisors who had to make these very, very difficult decisions."
For more than a year, UTPA administrators have sought ways to limit the effects of the State's $26 billion deficit without negatively impacting students or their education. Initially, when House Bill 1 (the State appropriations' bill) was introduced, UTPA expected to lay off faculty in addition to staff and offer 382 fewer courses next year. But through major reallocations of resources, UTPA was able to fund all course offerings for next year and not eliminate any faculty positions.
"Our first obligation is to graduate as many students as we can, as quickly as we can, and with the best education Pan Am can offer," Nelsen said. "That is why we worked hard to avoid cutting any class sections and laying off any faculty."
The university began making spending cuts in many areas of its operations early in the budget process in an attempt to save as many positions as possible from being eliminated. Voluntary separation packages were offered to 203 eligible employees, and of those 43 accepted the offer. Even so, additional actions were needed to make up the budget shortfall. In the end, UT Pan American had no choice but to eliminate 26 staff positions to provide for its students, Nelsen said.
"These are days of mourning at Pan Am," the president said. "We're a family. And we've lost part of our family."
Office and department supervisors will begin informing employees on an individual basis of their employment status on June 29 and 30.
Although the University has enacted a hiring freeze, it is working to retain some employees who are qualified to fill open positions identified as critical to operate the institution. For all other affected employees, the university will provide a variety of services to help them find jobs and continue their education at UTPA.
The list of services will include:
• On July 5-6, UTPA Human Resources and Career Services, as well as UT System's Employee Assistance Program, will host information sessions for employees that will include workshops on job training, assistance with finding new work and information about benefits and other services offered to them while they find work.
• On July 6, representatives from NextJob Outplacement Services will be on campus to provide one-on-one job coaching, help with developing résumés and offer other assistance to employees. The sessions July 5 and 6 will take place at the UTPA Library Computer Lab from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
• On July 8, Workforce Solutions will be available to help employees in the job search process. Their session will take place at the UTPA Library Computer Lab from 10:30-11:30 a.m.
• On July 12, Kelly Staffing Services will be on campus to assist employees with developing their résumés and preparing for their job search. Their session will take place at the UTPA Library Computer Lab from 1-2 p.m.
• Throughout the month of July, UTPA Human Resources will be available for assistance at the Library Computer Lab from 9-11 a.m. and 1-3 p.m.
• The University has set aside funding to help employees further their education at UTPA and develop new skills.
• UTPA Human Resources will be notifying employees of any jobs available at UTPA for one year after Aug. 31.
• The UT System's Employee Assistance Program (EAP) will be available 24 hours, seven days a week to employees. UTEAP can be reached at 1-800-346-3549 or www.uteap.org.