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CU Boulder proposes cutting 50 tenure-track positions

All 50 faculty would come from the College of Arts and Sciences to help meet a required 5% budget cut.

BOULDER, Colo. — The University of Colorado Boulder's (CU) provost asked each of his deans to find ways to cut around 5% of each college's budget to make up for funding shortfalls due to the pandemic. 

The university is operating on a nearly $100 million deficit during the pandemic.

Faculty salaries make up 90% of the college of arts and science's budget, so CU started there to reach the 5%. Interim Dean James White proposed cutting 50 tenure-track professor positions, a move that would save the college about $6 million. 

But, there's still a plan in place to make sure student opportunities don't change dramatically. 

"As we reduce tenure track faculty we would hire our teaching professors to backfill this class," White said. "Our goal is to not see an impact at all on our students."

White plans to add 25 instructors, professors whose focus is teaching rather than research. The college of arts and science's faculty is currently about 750 tenured or tenure-track professors and 200 instructors. 

The additions, said White, put the college in a better place to grow once the financial strains of the pandemic have passed. 

"One of our goals was we did not want to be in a situation where when we came out of this, we had given away the support structure that we need to grow back from this," White said. "It was important to us to think about mechanisms that we could employ that would allow us to come out of this stronger than we went into it in the first place."

The restructuring also allows the college to help out the remaining tenured and tenure-track professors expand on their research opportunities. 

"We don't really have much budget flexibility, which is why we're doing this," White said. "Part of what we would do with that budget flexibility is give our research faculty more opportunities. We would give them mid-career support, we would give them lab support, we give them a lot of support that right now we can't afford to give them. So, the idea is we would have slightly fewer tenure track faculty but we would treat them better and support them better. And I think we would get even more research productivity, which is important to the university and important to the state."

White said that giving those remaining research professors additional funding would also allow them to continue giving opportunities to students who need lab experience for jobs down the line. He said it would create an environment that was more attractive to potential professors for their research as well. 

"Our goal is to provide even better support for the research faculty we have," White said. "I would hope we would even be a better draw for quality candidates. We do really well when it comes to hires, hence University of Colorado Boulder is a magnet for excellent people."

In addition to the tenure-track position cuts, the college is instituting temporary salary cuts for anyone making over $60,000 annually, reducing travel grants and holding off on hiring new individuals in non-essential roles. 

>>Watch video above: CU Boulder shifts to remote learning for the rest of the semester.

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