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February 7, 2005

UConn Officials Tighten Hiring Procedures

University officials have instituted a new position refill process that will permit selective job searches in essential or priority areas, while also complying with a hiring freeze initiated by Gov. M. Jodi Rell on Jan. 14. The process applies to all hiring, except positions funded by research grants or other externally funded positions.

While the University enjoys independent staffing authority and is not specifically mandated to freeze hiring based on the governor’s directive, officials said the University would comply with the directive.

“The University’s finances are intertwined with the fiscal challenges that confront the state as a whole, and it is virtually certain that we will face severe constraints in state operating budget appropriations next year,” a Feb. 1 memo to deans, directors, and department heads said. “Therefore, we are implementing a position review process for the Storrs-based programs, hopefully for a period of limited duration, which will allow us to focus our resources where the institution’s priorities exist.” The memo was signed by Peter Nicholls, provost designate, Lorraine Aronson, vice president and chief financial officer, and Linda Flaherty-Goldsmith, vice president and chief operating officer. A similar memo was sent to Health Center personnel by Peter Deckers, executive vice president for health affairs, and Susan Whetstone, the Health Center’s chief administrative officer.

Deckers, while noting that the state portion of the Health Center’s budget has decreased substantially since 2001, said it is still critical.

“Although the state appropriation now accounts for a smaller share of our annual budget, these funds are increasingly crucial for the support and growth of our academic enterprise,” he said. “Thus, it is critically important that we, like other state agencies, participate in the governor’s efforts to contain and reduce the projected budget gap.”

Rell announced the statewide hiring freeze as reports from governor’s budget office and the legislature’s Office of Fiscal Analysis continue to make projections of a state deficit for the 2005-06 budget year ranging from $680 million to $1.3 billion. Late last year, Rell also issued a no-travel directive to state agencies, as part of an attempt to reign in spending.

The announcement from UConn’s vice presidents reinstitutes the “essential staffing request” process, a system of checks and balances that ensure vital positions will be filled, while most other positions will remain vacant until the latest fiscal crisis eases and the governor rescinds her order. The process requires that any department requesting a position refill file budget and staffing request forms with the Position Review Committee, staffed by Suman Singha, vice provost for academic programs, Bruce DeTora, chief financial officer, and Donna Munroe, associate vice president for human resources and payroll. The committee will review all requests, then make a recommendation to the president, provost, or an appropriate vice president. All requests must be approved by a top- level administrator.

Vacant positions for Storrs-based programs will not be filled unless the job is critical to health and safety; is budgeted as a strategic priority; is budgeted to meet the demands of course enrollments and course coverage; or is budgeted to ensure the delivery of essential student services and University operations.

At the Health Center, a position will be approved only if it is critical to health, safety, or necessary to meeting regulatory requirements; is a revenue-generating or quality of care-enhancing position within the clinical operation, especially one associated with the Signature Programs; is a position within the Correctional Managed Health Care Program; or is fully funded from established or new research grants.

Officials who have already received budget certification for vacant positions and are in the search process will also be required to file an essential staffing request before continuing the search.

“The University’s future is always dependent upon careful and strategic management of our resources,” the memo said. “In times of fiscal constraint even greater care must be taken to ensure that we are able to continue our progress toward established goals. We have every confidence that with appropriate and prudent allocation of our resources, and ongoing commitment to our priorities, our success will continue.”