Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
The "Crisis of Confidence" series is a multi-year effort by the Tri States Public Radio to document the impact the two-year state budget impasse had on Western Illinois University and the ongoing recovery efforts at WIU. State support for public higher education institutions has been steadily declining in Illinois for more than a decade. But the issue was compounded, during the state's historic two-year budget impasse during Fiscal Years '16 and '17 which left public colleges and universities with little state financial support. At Western Illinois University, that drastic cut in state appropriations resulted in significant budget cuts, employee furloughs, and layoffs.

By the Numbers: A Look at WIU's Faculty Layoffs

Rich Egger

A few details are emerging about the layoffs at Western Illinois University, which were authorized by the Board of Trustees during a special meeting late last week. A total of two dozen faculty members and two other employees in academic affairs are losing their jobs.

The board is blaming declines in student enrollment and state appropriations for the layoffs.

A breakdown of the 24 faculty members laid off show:

8 Unit A (tenure or tenure-track faculty) including:

  • 3 professors
  • 4 associate professors
  • 1 assistant professor

16 Unit B (non-tenure track faculty) including:

  • 3 assistant professors
  • 13 instructors

Western is contractually obligated to give faculty members a one-year notice of layoffs so the employees won't lose their jobs until June 30, 2019.
University Professionals of Illinois is the union representing faculty and staff on campus. The announcement of layoffs came about a month after UPI members ratified a new contract with the University's administration.

UPI told Tri States Public Radio that of the 21 unionized faculty members laid off:

UPI said three of the faculty members who received layoff notices are new Unit B Instructors who signed contracts to start working at Western in August.
PREVIOUS COVERAGE: WIU Faculty Vote "No Confidence" in Administrative Leadership

A WIU spokeswoman cited personnel concerns in declining to provide specifics as to who was laid off or the departments affected by the layoffs.

According to a UPI newsletter to its members, the 21 layoffs are broken down by the following departments:

  • English - 7 Unit B
  • Liberal Arts and Studies - 3 Unit A
  • Mathematics and Philosophy - 2 Unit B and 1 Unit A
  • Political Science - 2 Unit A
  • Biology - 2 Unit B
  • Curriculum and Instruction - 2 Unit B
  • Geography - 1 Unit A
  • Psychology - 1 Unit B 

The university is also eliminating 62 positions that are vacant or will soon be vacant. A Western spokeswoman told TSPR that those positions span across all four of the academic colleges and some of the positions are tenure-track. Some others are also in non-academic units within academic affairs.

The two laid off positions in academic affairs include one faculty assistant and one civil service worker.

Looking Ahead:

Western Illinois University’s is projecting student enrollment will be down again this fall semester. The Director of Admissions Seth Miner told Western’s BoT he expects nearly 8,100 students this fall, which would be a drop of roughly 14% from a year ago.

PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Western Illinois University's Spring Enrollment Down

On the financial front, Illinois does have a spending plan in place for the new fiscal year that began July 1. It includes $47.2 million for WIU, which is millions of dollars short of what the University requested.

As a result, faculty members might not be the only ones facing layoffs and/or program cuts.

Western will hold a news conference on Monday, July 16, regarding what President Jack Thomas called, “The investment in academic programs that will keep Western on the leading edge and prepare our institution for growth.” But, Dr. Thomas declined to comment on what those plans could involve.

This article was edited on July 9, to include a more detailed list of faculty layoffs by working titles.

Emily Boyer is a former reporter at Tri States Public Radio.