Susan Olesik, chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, is worried about the College of Arts and Sciences.
“It’s been a high-anxiety time,” she said. “But what are you going to do?”
Olesik, along with several other department heads at Ohio State, is worried about what 2015 holds for her program.
Ongoing budget challenges have left the College of Arts and Sciences with a deficit that could reach $10 million by fiscal year 2016. And with the college also facing more retirements than usual at the end of this academic school year, that same deficit could potentially impact whether those positions are filled.
“We’ve had some significant losses, retirements,” Olesik said. “We’re getting there, but it takes a while.”
But time might not be on her side.
Pension reform legislation, passed in 2012, changes retirement eligibility and the benefits that come with it. The biggest of those changes are set to hit in 2015, and there’s a benefit offered to people who retire by July 1, so some professors have been leaving the university.
On top of the expected wave of retirements, Olesik also fears the possibility of cuts coming from the college.
“For everybody, it’s different. For us, we don’t know yet,” Olesik said. “We won’t be able to prepare until we know what they are.”
Lisa Florman, chair of the Department of History of Art, is also concerned. She said her department has seen significant retirements because of the eligibility and benefit changes.
Data comparing salary information between 2013 and 2014 pointed to a 17 percent drop in History of Art faculty, equating to a total of three less people. But Florman said the situation is actually more drastic than those numbers indicated.
Florman said there were 15 total faculty members in her department in 2011, but since then, seven have retired and only two have been added.
“We weren’t granted any hires in 2013/14 — though it is, of course, not the original source of the problem,” Florman said in an email.
That loss in faculty has put a strain on the remaining faculty members who still have to teach all the courses for the undergraduate major, Ph.D. program and general education courses, she said.
Anthony Mughan, director of International Studies, said the number of lecturers in departments often fluctuates because of factors such as demand for courses and normal patterns of turnover. He said he hasn’t seen a significant change in the number of lecturers within International Studies but said there’s still been repercussions.
“This is not to deny that ASC’s budget deficit has affected IS negatively. Its impact, however, has been to make for the cancellation of lowly enrolled courses and not the dismissal of lecturers,” he said in an email.
For now, it’s impossible to know for sure what will happen next year in terms of cuts. Olesik is still waiting on final confirmation on how much she might need to cut from her budget.
“Whatever (those) numbers are, we will do our best to serve our students,” Olesik said. “I think everybody in the Arts and Sciences is worried but we have to get through this … Cuts are coming next year.”
Despite concern over the budget, Libby Eckhardt, chief communications officer for the College of Arts and Sciences, said the current deficit will not necessarily mean cuts in faculty.
“Because of some of our current budget challenges and goals to increase efficiency, we are closely monitoring hiring throughout the college; however, we are not planning an overall decrease in faculty,” she said in an email. “In fact, we plan to increase faculty in coming years through the support of the Provost’s Discovery Themes Initiatives.”
The Discovery Themes initiative, which was launched in October 2012, targets health and wellness, energy and environment, food and food security, areas identified by some OSU officials as university priority areas.
The $400 million plan includes expanding research and hiring 500 tenured or tenure-track faculty over the next 10 years, costing about $100 million.
A new Discovery Theme was added in February that also pledges $5 million to the arts and humanities.
This story was made possible by the generosity of The Lantern and Ohio State alumna Patty Miller.