Halted searches and a tight budget

Denny Patterson

Due to recent changes with Millikin’s administration, Interim President Rich Dunsworth held an open campus forum to the Millikin community last month. Dunsworth wanted to discuss rumors and outline what the institution plans to do to find a new President and Vice President of Academic Affairs.
He also noted that the budget was said to be almost balanced.

After the forum, all administration, deans and students dismissed themselves to let faculty members hold their own private meeting. Convened by Dr. Michael O’Conner, the faculty discussed retaining Barry Pearson as the Vice President of Academic Affairs. Pearson announced last semester that he would step down from the position at the end of this year, but said in a previous Decaturian interview that if asked, he would consider staying for the stability of the institution. He would be open to the conversation if it came about.

“We had a motion to retain Pearson as the advisory to the President,” O’Conner said. “Faculty doesn’t get to vote on who gets to go in that role.”

More than half of Millikin’s full time faculty was in attendance.

After Pearson announced his plans to step down, a search committee was formed to seek out candidates who could fulfill the role. The search was abruptly stopped.

“The primary reason is because of the belief we would not be able to do a successful search,” Dunsworth said. “Part of that is on the mindset from the candidates’ perspective.

“Let say you’re a candidate interested in coming. You’re going to want to know who the boss is; who are you going to work for? It’s the belief that it would be difficult for us to hire someone in and say we don’t know.

“We don’t know who the president will be and won’t know for a while. Instead of forcing a search, we decided it made more sense on how do we find solutions from within and then the next president will be able to put his or her team together. We are working through solutions. It’ a work in progress.”
Searching or not, many who were in attendance at the open forum were not in favor of bringing in an interim from the outside.

Recently, questions about other searches being frozen were raised and some faculty have stated concerns about a possible one-year hiring freeze.

“That’s not true,” Dunsworth said. “I’m working on the communication that will go out to community. What we asked is that every search be evaluated and that independent decisions be made on every single search.

“I’ve asked the vice presidents and deans that if they believe we can forgo a hire without causing harm to the student experience, they should consider doing so. Those are conversations we’re having on every single position.

“Some positions have been frozen and various people made recommendations to eliminate positions because of doing things differently, primarily on administration sides. Some jobs might be merged and some business practices might be changed. Some positions have been said that there are other ways to meet the need without filling the position now.”
A faculty meeting was held on March 28, and Dunsworth laid it all on the table. Certain positions are in need of a candidate, other positions are going to be held open and some positions have the possibility of being eliminated.

“The four vice presidents evaluated every position that came open and they are trying to make the best recommendation possible. They are working to honor them.

Only 12 positions are currently in the process of seeking out potential candidates. Positions within information technology, theatre, exercise science and the director of the school of nursing being are among them. Open positions within sociology and accounting are currently being held open. Even roles within administration are on hold or being held open.

As for the budget, Dunsworth wouldn’t say that the budget is in a crisis, but it’s very tight.

“When we think about the budget, a piece that causes confusion is the long term,” he said. “When we think about it as a whole, our endowment has done well over the past few years. Folks hear numbers and think about them in proportionality. A couple of percentage points were squeezed.
“It’s a moving target, but we’re getting closer and closer every day. We’re working to find ways to make the budget work, and it’s my belief we’ll soon have a balanced budget.