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Wednesday, June 19, 2024

As the UF community braces for the announcement of long-anticipated budget cuts, officials have confirmed that despite UF's efforts, some faculty and staff won't have jobs at the university next year.

The number of faculty and staff that will be laid off is still undecided, said UF President Bernie Machen in a Thursday interview with Alligator reporters. "It's pretty clear this will involve people," Machen said. "I think it's realistic for you to say there will be layoffs."

UF spokeswoman Janine Sikes said Tuesday that though warnings of possible layoffs have been posted on a UF budget-reduction Web site, layoffs would be "impossible to avoid."

"We anticipate layoffs from every spectrum: from maintenance up to tenured faculty," she said.

Clarification: Janine Sikes, UF spokeswoman, said Wednesday that by saying, "We anticipate layoffs from every spectrum: from maintenance up to tenured faculty," in this story, she was referring to vacant positions that will be eliminated. She said she meant to say "tenure-track faculty" instead of tenured faculty.

Kyle Cavanaugh, UF's senior vice president for administration, said virtually all strategies for dealing with budget cuts are being explored, but eliminating tenured faculty is not yet one of them.

Machen said he plans to announce UF's budget cuts in early May after the state Legislature finishes its session and finalizes the overall state budget picture. Each college is already preparing for at least a 6 percent budget cut. Decisions about layoffs will be made at the college level.

He said the first wave of layoffs would eliminate vacant teaching positions. In anticipation of cuts, some colleges have left these positions unfilled. He said his No. 1 priority is to protect tenured faculty and those on the tenure-track when considering the cuts.

But Sikes said if tenured professors are involved in nixed programs, they too will lose their jobs.

"If programs are eliminated, there's no way to keep all the faculty," Sikes said. "We just don't know what's being cut."In January, before the Legislature indicated that UF should expect cuts of $50 million deeper than previously anticipated, UF spokesman Steve Orlando said UF leaders did not have plans for losing faculty members. But that hope dimmed as the budget picture became bleaker.

"We didn't know what the picture for the rest of the fiscal year was going to be like," he said. "And it's gotten worse."

Aside from the direct effects of laying off professors, Machen said Thursday that he's also worried many faculty members will simply leave UF out of fear to go to schools faring better economically, a move that would affect the quality of UF's education.

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"If we can't tell a faculty member that they aren't going to get a raise in the next three years, that's a negative," he said. "That's the only part of this quality equation that I can't guarantee right now."

He said he hopes first- and second-year faculty don't become discouraged by the bleak budgetary outlook. They should continue to plan for earning tenure at UF, he said. If they end up leaving because they're fearful of layoffs, they'll have to restart the tenure process at another institution. "My advice to them would be to stick it out," he said.

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