American Association of University Professors hosts town hall for faculty

Kailee Kokes / The Daily Gamecock

The American Association of University Professors (AAUP) and faculty on the Future Planning Group hosted a town hall on Thursday to address questions from faculty.

There are three issues impacting financial decisions for the next academic year that the university is considering: the impact of the anticipated enrollment decrease, increased cost relating to the COVID-19 environment and cost savings.

According to Matt Brown, the chair of the Department of Sport and Entertainment Management and co-chair of the faculty budget committee, these considerations all lead to a net decrease in revenue for the next academic year.

The finance committee is examining grassroots cost savings to see what can be done to immediately reduce costs.

"I do not want to put the burden of the cost-cutting measures on the back of our most important people, our faculty and our staff," President Bob Caslen said. "If we can find other ways to be able to find where these costs can be cut at, if we can find some early initiative at the grass-root level, that's what I'm all about."

Because of the budget cuts, academic programs may see some changes and reorganization, according to Brown. The Future Planning Group is considering both immediate and long-term options to reduce cost operations of academic programs.

Furloughs are also included in the possibilities of cost-cutting strategies but need legislative approval.

Models are being developed for differing kinds of furloughs.

"The one I have seen as a draft, it's three-tiered depending on salary and how many days would be furloughed per salary level," Caslen said. "So the authority to do it would give you up to 20 days, and so that would be 20 non-paid days. It goes up in the air for salary range, and then it would decrease based on the tiers based on that particular model that I saw."

One of the models that the public health/medical committee is running is to examine the impact of travel on the spread of the coronavirus.

"We are likely going to be encouraging those to limit unnecessary travel over the fall semester," Melissa Nolan, assistant professor and member public health/medical committee, said. "We are encouraging students to stay on campus. We would really encourage you to reconsider any vacation plans you might have just to limit your ability to spread."

The university is also considering providing personal protective equipment (PPE) like masks or face coverings for the fall semester. This cost will come from a provision in the central budget.

"We have to keep track of what units are using, what PPE, because there may be some degree of connection between FEMA funding and other funding that would suggest that we should know how we've used the PPE," interim provost Tayloe Harding said.

Bathrooms and high-touch surfaces will be cleaned four times a day, according to Bethany Bell, associate professor and member of the risk management/public health safety committee.

"It basically is logistically impossible to clean every surface of every classroom between every class because the custodial staff told how much time they would need, which is more time that we have between classes, and to redo all the class start times would be a very very challenging process," Bell said.

Environmental health and safety unit is also looking to asking users to help, like faculty requiring students to clean their surfaces at the beginning or end of class.

The university does not have the resources yet to accommodate for these changes but expects to receive them before the fall semester.

"We do believe and have been informed that the products will be increased production during the months of June and July," Deborah Beck, director of Student Health Services and leader of the risk management/public health safety committee, said.

Caslen also said he is not optimistic that USC will benefit from state relief.


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