WVU buyouts don’t rise to the level of an actual crisis, yet

“This is not a crisis. … This is a strategic opportunity to make sure we remain financially sound.”
The latter part of that statement from WVU’s vice president for strategic initiatives makes sense in the context of Monday’s announcement..
However, when any agency or institution in West Virginia is looking to cut nearly $15 million from its budget in personnel and supplies that may not rise to the level of a crisis, but it’s cause for concern.
This week, WVU declared it will be offering a buyout plan to longtime employees. Eligible faculty and staff must have 20 years of service and department head’s must agree his or her position can be done away with.
The best reason why no one should panic is this program is voluntary and the buyouts are substantial.
Those who voluntarily separate from WVU during the plan’s first exit date would receive a year’s pay. Those who wait until the second exit date get 50 percent of their yearly  salary.
Judging by the steep decline in state funding to higher education in the past decade and continuing fallout from annual tuition hikes this program makes sense.
But at the very same time WVU’s more than 5,600 full-time faulty and staff probably have reason to see this program as a sign of things to come.
After all, it must be disconcerting to many when more than 20 percent of positions — about 1,300 employees — fall under this review.
True, most expectations are that about 10 percent of those eligible employees will opt for this buyout plan. Yet, the intent here is clear.
WVU wants to achieve a major reduction in force among faculty and staff and wants to do it in a benevolent manner, for the time being.
The university  offered buyouts to faculty and staff before, but never to this degree.
WVU officials continue to  insist the university is not over-staffed all the while, which appears incongruous, but we are inclined to believe them.
Whether or not that’s all being said and this buyout plan is being launched for the benefit of negotiating with the Legislature in the future is another issue.
And whether this move leads to more part-time faculty and online classes and fewer classified and non-classified staff  also would appear to be presumable.
Still, most would agree  technology and an increasingly service-based economy  streamlined personnel ranks throughout the private and public sectors.
Bottom-line here though is any WVU employee cannot help but see this plan as an omen, of sorts.
What sort though, remains to be determined if this buyout plan falls short of its goal.

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