On Oct. 13, Wittenberg held a faculty forum to discuss the plan for cutting $6.5 million deficit in faculty and staff benefits.
Upon former President Laurie Joyner’s arrival in 2012, she proposed and released a five-year plan that looked at the faculty and staff financial health budget, but since then there have been further cuts.
Interim Provost Mary Jo Zembar confirmed that there was a reduction in Wittenberg’s contribution to retirement benefits for staff and faculty and a reallocation of the co-pay on medical benefits.
These changes will take place Jan. 1. She also said that with the new federal healthcare regulations, there will be new regulations to look at, too, but they weren’t specific.
“I wish we had been able to warn people,” said Kenneth Bladh, professor of geology and chairman of the Educational Policies Committee (EPC).
Along with the budget cuts, there have been staff cuts in the healthcare center over the past three years. Wittenberg explained that the university wanted to partner with a third party since it does not specialize in healthcare as a small school. Over the last two years, the health center has been closed on Fridays.
Not only will budget cuts affect current faculty members, but Wittenberg retirees will also have benefits cut. Retirees have been provided with resource phone numbers and open info sessions for help.
“I feel like we’re working really hard to make sure we don’t have to do this again,” Zembar said.
“The leadership of the campus feels like we understand the situation of the campus more now,” Bladh said.
At an EPC open forum last Monday, questions were raised about the budgeting for the new athletic facility that will be built over the next year.
“It is for the entire campus,” Zembar said. “It will touch a whole lot of lives here. I will take anything that helps us attract students.”
The educational building Blair was remodeled several years ago, and was financed the same way the athletic facility is being financed now.
Questions were also asked about whether there had been conversations with donors regarding the financial needs at Wittenberg, and whether they were encouraged to allocate money for one thing or another.
“I can’t speak at the moment. We shared needs and have a range of needs,” Zembar said.
Despite the talk of benefit cuts for faculty and staff, Wittenberg continues to attempt to make sure students can afford and have decent access to the school when recruiting potential students.
Wittenberg uses its current students as examples of how Witt changes students’ lives.
“We are actually percent wise compared to many of our peers,” Dean of Students Casey Gill said. “I think where we struggle is in retention.”
“This will be a good learning experience for students about their personal finances,” Gill said. “I can’t think of a better lesson for our students. This is a great lesson for you personally.”
Wittenberg does not know what future budget cuts will look like.