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University Freezes Hiring

Preemptive action aims to protect students, faculty, and staff

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In response to uncertainty about the health of the U.S. economy, Boston University President Robert A. Brown has imposed a freeze on the hiring of new employees and on commitments to capital projects for which construction contracts are not already in place.

In a letter sent yesterday to faculty and staff, Brown said he was acting preemptively to manage the potential short- and longer-term risks created by the current economic uncertainty.

“The collapse of several long-standing financial institutions and the degrading capital markets have created unprecedented volatility for our students, their parents, and the University,” said Brown. “Hopefully, the economic conditions will brighten in the weeks and months ahead and we can lift these constraints on our operations.”

Boston University Executive Vice President Joseph Mercurio said the University is acting out of concern about students’ and their parents’ ability to afford a college education if the economy does not rebound.

“If unemployment goes up or if capital markets don’t improve and students are unable to borrow money, it could put us in a position where we need to offer more in the way of financial assistance,” said Mercurio. “We are being prudent, taking precautions to protect our students, faculty, and staff by husbanding our resources.”

Mercurio said BU had just completed the best two fiscal operating years in the history of the University and the current budget remains on target. He said the University’s endowment of $1.2 billion had increased 2 percent in the year that just ended, and last year was in the top quartile of performance for all universities that report their endowment. In the past year, he said, the University has received two bond upgradings, one from Moody’s and one from Standard and Poor’s.

Mercurio said the University would go forward with the hiring of any positions that affect public safety and dormitory security. Other positions will be examined before hires are made.

Art Jahnke can be reached at jahnke@bu.edu.

25 Comments

25 Comments on University Freezes Hiring

  • Anonymous on 10.01.2008 at 6:20 am

    As one of the largest employers in Boston, doesn’t that mean that BU’s decision would be contributing to unemployment by decreasing the availability of new positions?

  • Anonymous on 10.01.2008 at 9:39 am

    cowardly action

  • Anonymous on 10.01.2008 at 9:47 am

    What about the other side

    What about those grad students who are counting on getting a job at BU to pay for that education you’re trying to protect?

  • Anonymous on 10.01.2008 at 9:50 am

    Not a new tactic...

    As a former employee of BU, I recall several hiring freezes that took place within my 5-year stint, so I’m not sure if I can believe the reasons behind this one.

  • Anonymous on 10.01.2008 at 9:59 am

    SPENDING

    When things get better and we are back to “normal”, how about spending where spending counts? For example, instead of spending money to make already attractive landscaping look even better, spend it instead to replace old carpeting that’s held together by duct tape. There’s a lot of unnecessary spending at B.U., aimed more at “image” than at substance.

  • Anonymous on 10.01.2008 at 10:35 am

    The Truth

    The only way BU would contribute to unemployment was if the University began firing employees. The reason for this freeze is not to keep people from finding jobs, but to protect its students. If the market continues in its downward spiral, it is a fact that students will need much more assistance with affording a higher education. Rather than trying to find things to poke at, you should respect and appreciate that such a large university is considerate of each of its students and willing to sacrifice spending and hiring to ensure that its students have a greater opportunity to succeed.

  • Anonymous on 10.01.2008 at 10:49 am

    Cowardly action?

    Cowardly? I think you need to educate yourself before you go commenting on what is or isn’t best for the University. Bob Brown’s job is to protect this institution, and that is what he is doing. What good would it do if BU hired hundreds of people, students stopped coming because they couldn’t afford it, and then everyone lost their jobs. Then even more people would be furious.

    As far as BU contributing to unemployment, no more so than anyone else. I’m sure BU won’t be firing or laying off people, just not hiring. There are plenty of businesses that have taken that stand even before this crisis. To be firing people would be contributing to unemployment. To not be hiring is just good business sense in this situation. When we get through it, the doors will be reopened and we will continue to support all the job seekers. I again go back to the point that we are no use to anyone if we fail, and Bob Brown is just making sure that doesn’t happen.

    Think through all aspects of a decision before letting your personal convictions and thoughts get in the way of speaking foolishly.

  • Anonymous on 10.01.2008 at 11:14 am

    This is awesome.

    I now have to work a couple of 12 hour days a week to cover the third position in my department, which won’t get filled because of the hiring freeze. My family is going to love that, and it’ll make that class I’m taking (remember, those classes that we pay taxes on because it’s considered part of our pay?) even more stressful.

    And the best part is, when January rolls around I’m sure there’ll be a merit increase freeze to accompany the hiring freeze, so all that “Great job! Above and beyond the call of duty! One hundred and fifty percent effort!” will be worth exactly zilch. Believe me, I’ve seen it happen here not all that long ago. Make sure you gorge yourselves at the BU Christmas Party – it’ll be the only “bonus” you get out of BU this year.

  • Anonymous on 10.01.2008 at 11:23 am

    I'll believe it when I see it...

    In order to offer more financial assistance? Yeah, with a bunch of our parents out of work, let’s hope so…
    Until I get more (very much needed) aid next semester…I remain skeptical…

  • Cassandra Jenecke on 10.01.2008 at 11:27 am

    Affordability

    While I applaud President Brown’s efforts to try and protect “students’ and their parents’ ability to afford a college education,” I have to wonder why, if that is the reasoning, President Brown doesn’t also impose a fixed tuition policy like so many other universities OR cease the consistent 4.5% tuition increases each year. If the university is truly concerned about students’ and their parents’ ability to afford a college education, let’s try and do something that the students will recognize and understand versus something that will obviously be helping the university’s bottom line and ultimately affecting students in a possibly negative way.

  • Anonymous on 10.01.2008 at 11:51 am

    Bu's hiring freeze

    Hmm…..The question is, how does a hiring freeze actually protect BU students? The implication seems to be that by not hiring, the university will be avoiding extra costs, which by extension, will not be passed on to students. So does this mean that they’re instituting a tuition freeze as well, so that college can remain “affordable”? (Though, of course, BU’s tuition is already one of the highest in the country.) Does it mean that the only reason that BU (and nearly every educational institution) raises its tuition every year is to accommodate new hires and new costs – and that they wouldn’t do so otherwise?
    I think that the University has a right to protect itself economically, but I’m skeptical of their claimed altruism towards students and parents.

  • Anonymous on 10.01.2008 at 1:20 pm

    Bob Brown is already running a skeleton crew

    I work at BU and manage staff. I can tell you that if one of my folks left, and I could not rehire, we would be in a very difficult situation. We are already understaffed. So are many other units and departments at BU. Just call any department chair and ask.

    It’s unfortunate that students will continue to pay first rate tuition costs but will soon be buying less staff to help them and fewer teachers to teach them.

  • BusinessMinded on 10.01.2008 at 1:52 pm

    Really?

    President Brown cites “degrading capital markets” as one of the key reasons he has enacted a hiring freeze at Boston University. First of all, what exactly makes the capital markets “degrading?”

    Second, this type of ill-advised overreaction to current financial hardships is exactly what will exacerbate the problem. If the university decides to cut capital spending and restrict new hiring it will hurtle us even faster toward recession.

  • Anonymous on 10.01.2008 at 1:56 pm

    Can't afford it?

    You do realize how much kids are paying to come here, right? Over FIFTY THOUSAND dollars. Claiming this is to keep tuition from going up completely ignores the fact that it is just stupidly expensive to go to this school to begin with. Who can afford to send a kid to a college that costs fifty grand a year? Either A) You’re so stinking rich that doesn’t matter to you, B) You’re poor enough that financial aid covers the bulk of it, but your kid is still leaving here with a pile of debt, or C) You’re a middle-class family who can’t afford to send your kid here with a single check, but make too much for a mostly free ride, so you get screwed both ways and your kid graduates tens of thousands of dollars in debt…with an English degree.

    You want to fix the problem of kids not being able to afford coming to BU? Cut the price tag by twenty grand. Oh…that’s impossible? Well, I guess like Big Banking, BU counted on the credit market to float all those student tuition dollars. Too bad. I guess the real joke is on us, the poor folks who work here.

  • Anonymous on 10.01.2008 at 3:35 pm

    protecting $tudent$?

    As anyone who has ever attended BU can tell you, protecting students is the last thing Bob Brown and the administration cares about. If they did care, grade deflation would not be so rampant, nor would tuition increases. Fact is, BU sees its students as nothing more than cash cows and it is noticeable in the way students and their families are treated. Wait until you graduate and see just how long it takes BU to ask for a donation. I am also convinced, by the sheer number of stories I have heard about this and from personal experience, that BU attracts students from middle class families with great financial aid offers only to make keeping the aid impossible.

  • Anonymous on 10.01.2008 at 4:11 pm

    How About Freezing Administrator Positions?

    All universities today have bloat, but in contrast to what Prez Brown would have you believe, it is not in the staff or the faculty that this bloat lies. It is in the incessant number of administrative positions, assistant VPs, associate VPs, special advisors to the Prez, and so on. Much of the work of these administrators could be taken up by the deans or done by staff who would not suck up the ridiculous salaries that these positions are given. Why not get rid of them?

    Instead, the president puts the hit on staff positions and any new faculty positions — positions that DIRECTLY impact the students for whom the university exists. Whenever these crises happen, staff and faculty are asked to do more with less, take a hit on merit pay (and for faculty, there is no cost-of-living increases in salary, only merit based increases exist), and is some cases, faculty in schools like MET or CGS who live on one year contracts (so that they can be dismissed rapidly if the need arises) are targeted to bring down costs.

    Basically, universities have become as immoral as Wall Street–the administrators are like the CEOs of the banks and financial institutions we see in crisis today. They want their hefty salaries and bonuses (or golden parachutes) and to hell with everyone else. Eventually this lassez faire attitude will come back to haunt universities who fail to reign in administrative bloat and salaries and instead cut back on staff and faculty while keeping tuition and fees high. Want to keep the university safe in these uncertain times?–make it affordable to go here and then hire enough staff and faculty to efficiently and effectively deal with the students and cut back on administrators. Cut back on “pretty” projects that cost millions (and you sit there and wonder, how did that cost millions when you see the end product) and just provide the necessary things needed to teach. Get rid of the plethora of unnecessary administrators and ask those who are left to work harder for their hefty paychecks. It would be nice to see those folks work as hard as the staff do …

  • Anonymous on 10.01.2008 at 4:35 pm

    How about cutting some of those worthless dean positions. One of those positions could be worth 4 new hires???? People that actually do work.

  • Anonymous on 10.01.2008 at 4:37 pm

    Wow. People like to complain. If you dont want to work at BU, YOU DONT HAVE TO. I love how everyone on here feels that BU owes them something. The person who gets mad that they wont get a bonus because they have seen it before: If your such a great staff memeber, I am sure many other colleges would hire you.

    Those who complain on here about BU costing so much; didnt the amount of students applying go up meaning the acceptance rate went down. BU charges what it charges and they still fill those spots every year.

  • Anonymous on 10.01.2008 at 8:53 pm

    Placing a freeze on hiring at BU is all for naught. Students and their parents that find a way to fund BU’s ridiculous tuition are still going to find ways of paying for tuition in the future. Also, we all know that BU will conveniently unfreeze hiring right before announcing next academic year’s tuition price so that they have a way to justify another 5% increase.

    If BU wants to look out for its students, how about improving residence life? BU administrators would not last one night in South Campus’s run-down, infested, residences for which they dastardly charge above “market prices.”

  • Anonymous on 10.01.2008 at 11:35 pm

    Opportunity to Consider the Future

    A hiring freeze. Interesting. In my years of affiliation with Boston University, which is over two decades long, I can recall at least 3 or 4 separate freezes. Some lasted so long, I can’t remember if they ever ended before the next one went into effect. This is a great opportunity. I encourage the administration to truly look at what positions are necessary. What positions are wasteful and can be slated for permanent elimination, and where does the University need to beef up its staffing. Also, this may be a good time to do a salary adjustment for those loyal staff members who stick around and are doing excellent work for the students and the University. Notice, I’ve specifically mentioned staff. Administrative, non-union staff are the individuals who will be most impacted by this freeze – and when it is over, there should be some real recognition (read: increased salary and better benefits) of their impact on the day to day of Boston University.

  • Anonymous on 10.02.2008 at 9:52 am

    I can understand and appreciate the reasons for the hiring freeze.

    However, as several other posters have commented, I would question the way money is spent at BU. We seem to spend an awful lot of money on making the place look pretty (the ludicrous amount of money that goes into Commencement being the most egregious example) while skimping on more substantive matters (like getting the heating/air conditioning systems in the various buildings to actually work properly).

  • Anonymous on 10.02.2008 at 11:48 am

    Yes, some of us DO have to...

    “Wow. People like to complain. If you dont want to work at BU, YOU DONT HAVE TO.” – unfortunately, as I mentioned (since I’m the one you’re talking about), I’m enrolled in a graduate degree program at BU. I’ve got the courses I want planned out, I’ve got advisers I have made friendships with that I trust, and jumping ship to another college or university would probably set my degree back by at least a year. This is not to mention the fact that my spouse works at BU, and I’ve got a great many friends who work here as well. I like the location compared to where I live, I like the campus, I like the environment. What I DON’T like is the idea of taking on a fifty-hour work week for the next six months because BU doesn’t want to replace my co-worker. Some of us are entrenched a little too deeply here to just pick up and go – it’s not as simple as that.

  • Anonymous on 10.04.2008 at 10:08 pm

    Is the major implication of this action well in view? Hopefully it also would not be less than one step closer to a “downsizing” or maybe “right sizing”? Survival has always been better with others, so why closeup on yourself in these times-the best deal for sustenance in perils is not this action. Let the question be better posed by how far can we sink instead of where are we going!

  • Jimmy Jazz on 10.09.2008 at 3:47 pm

    Better Than Silber

    Well Jonny Silber recieved 6.1 million when he left – Robert Brown is getting less than 1 million. That is called a discount – no wonder BU is able to build those highrises and new fields.

  • Anonymous on 10.15.2008 at 11:17 pm

    Postings regarding freeze

    As a outsider, I found these comments very interesting. Does Robert Brown read them?

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