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TO: Faculty and Staff

FR: Stephen T. Hulbert, President

We, at Nicholls continue to make a difference in the lives of those around us,in the communities that we help to shape, and in the region that we serve. One important way that the Nicholls community has directly improved the quality of the lives of thousands of residents in our region has been through its continued support of the United Way of South Louisiana effort.

This year’s “Nicholls, We Care” campaign officially kicked off this week at the President’s Executive Council. Al Davis and Rob Bremer have agreed to serve as Campaign Co-Chairs and they along with United Way representatives will be scheduling a series of meetings in conjunction with departmental quarterly safety meetings or staff meetings for faculty and staff to learn more about United Way.

Our campaign will run through December, at which time we hope to meet our goal of $16,000. Every dollar collected not only represents a direct investment in the people of this area but is also the most effective way of supporting a network of services that no one organization could provide alone. Please consider supporting United Way of South Louisiana. The easiest way to give is through the convenience of payroll deduction. Just a few dollars a paycheck can make all the difference.

Over the years, faculty and staff, despite these difficult economic times, have generously contributed to United Way. Because of the history of this support, Nicholls continues to be recognized as a United Way Pacesetter Institution—a designation that demonstrates once again how essential the Nicholls community is to the vitality of this area.

Remember that when we work together through United Way of South Louisiana, we can have an impact right at home.

As we end our first week back in the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac, I wanted to write the university community expressing my appreciation for the efforts of faculty, staff and students alike in responding first to closing the campus and, later in preparing for its reopening. The cooperation of everyone affected made advance preparations as well as clean-up and repair efforts move more smoothly.

It is always risky to single out individuals for special recognition as someone is inevitably missed. So, avoiding that approach, there is one group, the staff of the facilities area, the grounds, custodial and maintenance trades personnel, that is deserving of particular recognition.

Before attending to their own homes, these staff members closed the campus in preparation for Isaac’s arrival. After the storm last Thursday, ten members of the grounds staff supported by colleagues from the maintenance and custodial areas began cleaning the campus. These individuals worked all afternoon often in heavy rain and then returned all day Friday and through noon on Saturday.

Together, they accomplished a major amount of clean-up work, damage assessment and even initial repairs. On behalf of the entire campus community, and the students in particular, I want to express my sincere appreciation for the selfless efforts of these staff colleagues.

As I express appreciation to the facilities personnel, I know that staff from maintenance trades, information technology, residence life, safety and other areas of the campus was hard at work assessing and repairing storm damage.

To everyone involved goes my appreciation for the hard work and commitment to Nicholls State University and the students we all serve. Thank you!

Over the last several weeks this administration has been engaged in the process of developing a balanced budget for submission to Baton Rouge on August 1, 2012.  That effort has been undertaken without any support or even inquiries from the Louisiana Board of Regents or the Board of Supervisors of the University of Louisiana System, their staff or the respective board membership.

Simply stated, all of Louisiana’s 14 four-year universities and 22 two-year colleges have found reaching a balanced budget a solitary effort.  To date, we have only heard from LSU and the University of Southeastern Louisiana regarding the dollar and programmatic impact of the 2012-2013 appropriation from the State.

As community members have seen, local media coverage of planned personnel layoffs and budget cuts have been quite limited in nature.  The reason for the delayed release of information from this administration is directly attributable to the timing of decisions at the State level to approve aspects of the university’s plan.

Monday afternoon of last week the Louisiana Civil Service Commission approved the university’s plan to lay off specific classified positions.  While some initial notice had been given to affected personnel, without the State’s formal approval we could not initiate the actual notification process and, in some cases, the bumping that would ensue based on employee seniority.  That notification process began last Tuesday morning and was completed by week’s end.

For obvious reasons, the university wanted to ensure that affected employees heard first from supervisors and Human Resources personnel before steps were taken to release information on areas of the university affected by the budget cuts to the broader public.

Below is the primary information being released to the press this afternoon.

The university’s total operating budget – $52 million – reflects a $5.3 million reduction in state funding and self-generated revenue since July 2011.

More than $4.6 million of the cut has resulted from a decrease in state funding combined with an increase in state-mandated expenses, including retirement costs and insurance premiums. The remaining $737,000 decrease is attributed to a loss in tuition and other self-generated revenue due to an anticipated decline in enrollment – a direct result of higher tuition rates and increased admission standards.

It is difficult to overstate the seriousness of these cuts, specifically the cumulative effect of 10 reductions over the past four years.  The decimation of higher education in this state is unlike anything I have seen in my 40-plus years of professional experience.

The university’s budget reduction plan includes the layoff of 28 employees (two faculty and 26 staff).  Also included is the elimination of 65 currently vacant positions (20 faculty and 45 staff), many of which were only recently vacated, bringing the total faculty and staff reductions to 122 (33 faculty and 89 staff) since 2008-09.  In all, this totals a 16 percent reduction in employees (12 percent for faculty and 18 percent for staff) while enrollment has only decreased 5 percent since the move to selective admissions.

I deeply regret being forced to lay off valuable employees who provide needed services for our students.  There are no easy answers. Nicholls has not published the effect of the budget cuts until now because we needed to go through the appropriate process of notifying those being laid off.  This was an agonizing process, leaving good people jobless and introducing increased burdens to those left behind – the people who haven’t received a pay raise, unless they were promoted, since 2007.

Additional cuts were made in the following areas: operating and professional services, travel, supplies and library reference materials.

It is important to note that our students, as well as all students in the state, are now paying more and getting less because of the series of state budget cuts and the 10 percent per-year tuition increases.

The ratio of state support to tuition/fees has gone from 61 to 39 percent to the other way around, 40 to 60 percent.  State funding has shrunk from almost $36 million in 2008-09 to less than $19 million – a decrease of more than $17 million, or 48 percent.

Make no mistake, we’re talking about the future of higher education in the Bayou Region.  It is important to remember that around 60 percent of our incoming freshmen are still first-generation college students, many of whom have Nicholls as their only choice for a four-year degree because they are unable to travel two to three hours to a regional university and are unable to afford the cost of room and board on another campus.  Put simply, the lack of state support for higher education in Louisiana is a tragedy – and an incredible mistake by Louisiana state government.

Despite budget challenges, we remain committed to protecting, as much as possible, the academic core of the university and fulfilling our mission to provide higher education opportunities to the people of our service region.

Even with our budget greatly reduced, we must be very cautious in our expenditures because the budget is on a very thin line.  I am asking that departments, both academic and support, only purchase what is absolutely necessary to meet our mission.  As vacancies occur, we will need to evaluate the necessity of filling them prior to the next fiscal year.

I truly appreciate all everyone has done to meet the needs of our students and this region.  I know it is getting more and more difficult, but I ask each of you to pull together to continue to make this a great university.  I am proud to be a part of what we have put together – even in these most trying of times.

We must remain the people we are as we relate to our students, our region, and each other.

President’s Message Attachment 2 (docx)

President’s Message Attachment 1 (docx)

As I mentioned in my previous message to the university community, Nicholls State University is facing a $5,272,819 reduction in state support and self-generated revenue even after the tuition increase. Therefore, it is with much regret that I must inform the University community that we will again face reductions in faculty and staff. Even more regrettable, is the effective date that we are forced to implement the reductions to some of our staff colleagues, which will be August 1, 2012. Official notification to those affected by the reductions will begin this week.

With that said, we have made every attempt to reduce non-personnel expenses or to cut vacant positions in order to avoid the elimination of filled faculty and staff positions. The following is a summary of the initiatives that we are implementing in the 2012-2013 budget.

  1. Continue to eliminate vacant and projected to-fill positions. Only fill those vacancies that are absolutely necessary to maintain core services.
  2. Reduce operating budget allocations for all but mandated and absolutely critical travel, supplies, equipment and other operating expenditures. For all practical purposes, we will start and end fiscal year 2012-2013 with a spending freeze.
  3. To the extent allowable by state regulations, funding to offset operational expenses will be transferred from auxiliary enterprises to operations.
  4. Once again, there will be no merit increases for all employees.

To be very honest, there is little good news these days from Baton Rouge, with no one in leadership roles speaking out on behalf of higher education, its colleges and universities or the students each serves. However, as I have so often said, down here in the bayou region, we survive and, on occasion, even flourish in spite of Baton Rouge. We are blessed with rich natural and human resources. Our people work hard and ask little but the opportunity to work. Together we will get through these difficult times.

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