Emporia State to cut 7% of staff following framework vote

13 News at Six
Published: Sep. 15, 2022 at 11:56 AM CDT
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EMPORIA, Kan. (WIBW) - About 7% of all staff at Emporia State University will receive either a suspension, dismissal or termination notice by Friday - just two days after the vote to approve a new framework policy.

KVOE reports that on Friday, Sept. 16, no later than two days after the Kansas Board of Regents vote to greenlight Emporia State University’s Workforce Management Framework Policy, about 7% of the staff will receive either a suspension, dismissal or termination notice.

KBOR members voted unanimously at its Wednesday meeting to approve the new framework following comments from ESU President Ken Hush and Interim Provost Ben Thomas.

Thomas told the Board that the framework would allow the university a position for long-term success.

The University said the framework gives the administration the means to “suspend, dismiss or terminate any university employee” for factors that include low enrollment, operations costs, revenue reductions, resource realignment, performance evaluations, teaching and research productivity and low service productivity, however, this is not a complete list.

Hush noted that any decisions made under the framework would be the result of an extensive “academic review process.”

Thomas indicated that a leadership team has been tasked to oversee the review and has been given input from individuals who represent all areas of the campus.

The framework does require Hush to provide at least 30 days of written notice - to include reasons for the action - before any suspension, dismissal or termination can be followed through with. Those affected can appeal the decision through the Board of Regents office within 30 days, allowing for another 30 days for Hush to respond and a final 10-day window for the matter to be referred to the Office of Administrative Hearings.

The framework specifies that employees have the burden of proof and those who win their appeals will be entitled to reinstatement, back pay and restoration of other lost benefits.

ESU noted that the framework was needed due to a decline in on-campus enrollment and a lower-level decline in overall enrollment in the past five years - as well as ongoing financial impacts of COVID-19 and a need to update class offerings.

English, Modern Languages and Journalism Professor Dan Colson told KVOE the move was politically motivated by linking the Kansas Legislature’s Republican supermajority and Hush’s tenure as an executive at Koch Carbon. He said faculty leadership and student government were not included in the policy’s development process - despite assurances from Hush.

Colson also noted a rift between ESU administration and faculty will hinder recruitment and retention of faculty, diminishing the quality of education and eventually reducing enrollment.

The professor said he believes cuts will be targeted at the arts and humanities departments. Meanwhile, Hush anticipates about 2% of the current student body to be affected and said they will have the chance to finish their programs as ESU students.

Social Sciences, Sociology and Criminology Professor Michael Smith, a member of the ESU community, told KVOE he would have rather seen the University stop its current review process without changes, use federal CARES Act money and other funds to stabilize the budget and work with the Kansas Leadership Center to reenvision campus operations - as outlined in an online petition with 800 signatures.

“We appreciate the Kansas Board of Regents’ approval of the Emporia State University Framework for Workforce Management. This framework will give ESU the flexibility to transform ESU in the best interest of our students and will allow ESU to be here to serve students for the next 159 years.

“Our next step is to share the details about this transformation to those individuals directly affected and our campus community. We anticipate our colleagues and students will receive details by the end of this week, although that could be subject to change if necessary.”

Statement from President Ken Hush following Kansas Board of Regents vote

Students held a sit-in on Wednesday to protest the framework.

ESU noted that while the framework does not take faculty tenure away, it does, however, temporarily take away some protections tenure gives these employees during reduction needs.

According to KVOE, the Faculty Senate has strongly disagreed with the university over the framework and said it is nothing more than a way to end tenure, either on a temporary basis or permanently.

For more information about the Framework, click HERE.