Dear Friends and Colleagues,
It has been two years since the final decision was made to end the 20-year partnership between the UT System and Texas Southmost College and since legislation was passed to re-launch UT Brownsville as an independently operating university within The UT System.
UT Brownsville has continued to manage the instruction and operations of the Partnership while Texas Southmost College continues to establish itself as an autonomous community college. To allow for separate accreditation by August 31, 2015, the legislation’s mandated end of the Partnership, Texas Southmost College must begin independent operations beginning this fall.
For the past year, we have been engaged in a process to forecast our needs to manage UT Brownsville’s smaller, separate operation. We developed enrollment models that would identify facility and staffing needs. Based on an enrollment projection of approximately 60 percent of the current size, a reduction in force (RIF) for both faculty and staff was required to “rightsize” the university. To that end, last May, 88 faculty were notified that their positions were recommended for termination, using a process in accordance UT System policies.
In the fall of 2012, we began to work with the leadership of the Staff Senate to prepare for the reduction in staff positions that would also be required. The Staff Senate has played a critically important role in helping us design a process that is private, personal and dignified. Specifically, they advocated for providing sufficient notice for staff to find new employment, separation compensation based on years of service, and personalized training in resume preparation.
The Staff Senate also helped us plan several initiatives to help ease the transition. We have worked with local employers and other agencies to hold job fairs to let our campus community know about opportunities in our region. We created an Employee Development Center that has been actively meeting with groups of employees as well as individuals seeking assistance. We have also left 70 positions unfilled that were vacated to reduce the number of positions that would have to be eliminated to about 250.
For the past three months, each vice president or division head has worked with the Provost on a plan for rightsizing their units for the new enrollment. Campus leaders then presented their proposals to the President for approval. On April 2nd, employees whose positions have been recommended for termination will be notified that their employment will end on August 31st. Affected employees will be expected to continue their current duties through August 31st, unless duties are reassigned or they find other employment. Employees will be provided flexibility with their current job duties (ex: job interviews off site), and the Employee Development Center will be available to assist affected employees to seek re-employment opportunities through August.
It is impossible to adequately thank the dedicated staff and faculty that have played such a vital role in the work of growing our university over the years. But they should know that all of us acknowledge and greatly appreciate that it was their extraordinary contributions that produced the 33,000 graduates who have earned their certificates and degrees over the last 20 years.
There is no doubt that the last few years have been challenging and the changes ahead will be very difficult. The reduction in force that will be announced next week will have a profound impact on families throughout our community. We are all committed to assisting employees during this next transition.
We offer our most sincere appreciation to members of the Staff Senate that have led the way in maintaining a sense of service and responsibility to our students throughout the transition. In all they have done, they have exemplified the highest level of professional integrity and dedication to our students that has called us all to this important work and that must continue to propel our work in the future.