Budget cuts lead to office cuts

Lakeidra Chavis/Sun Star Reporter
Sept. 13, 2013

In early August, Vice Chancellor Mike Sraga sent out a memo to faculty and staff notifying them that Career Services would be eliminated. Now, in mid-September, the plans have changed.

Career Services will undergo a small merger with Human Resources and eliminate two staff positions. One-hour meetings will be shortened to 30-minutes, office hours will be shortened and services such as the Exceptional Student Employee award program will be eliminated.

“There was actually tears shed because we were a really tight-knit staff,” said Director of Career Services, Patti Picha, in a joint interview with Sfraga and Marketing and Communications Senior Public Information Officer Marmiam Grimes.

Stfraga met with Associate Vice-Chancellors Kris Racina and Don Foley early in the summer to discuss budget cuts due to the university’s current budget deficit. The university needs to remove approximately $9 million from the budget. In order to do this, the university plans on saving money by reducing energy conservation costs, enforcing a 90-day wait policy for replacement staff and vertical cuts. 

Vertical cuts are when a specific department or service is downsized or removed in order to help balance the budget—Career Services was one of these departments.

Sfraga said that students were not involved in the discussion, choosing to look “to the leadership of the division for help.” However, in the future he said he’s more open to student feedback and involvement.

“It’s not that one thing is better than the other thing or worthless,” Sfraga said. “How could we make that cut, and somehow could retain some level of service while taking the needed cut we needed to take.”

Career Services does not bring in any revenue. The office charges companies for their booth during Job & Research Fairs but the money is spent on advertising for the event.

Before the transformation, the ratio of staff to student employees was 4-2. After the merger is complete, the ration will be 1-3. Student employees only work part-time and do not receive benefits. Career Services student employees make $9.00 to $9.50 an hour. One employee from Human Resources will also work with Career Services, as a small merger effort. These changes will save the university approximately $270,000.

The cut did not take care of all of the budget problems, but has taken care of a “considerable amount,” according to Sfraga.

Sfraga, Picha and Grimes said that the majority of responses from students have been negative. Picha said that UAF alumnus have visited her asking about Career Services.

Student Casey Peterson is unhappy with the merger. “Our accounting faculty are so busy teaching us methods and rules that they are unable to help with the professional side for our benefit, this is where career services really helps,” said Peterson, who is the vice president of the Great Alaska Accounting People.

Sfraga said that although he has received student opinions about Career Services, students have been more vocal about other university projects such as the UAF Nanook Terrain Park, the climbing wall and residence halls.

Students were not notified of the Career Services transformation, unlike the aforementioned university projects, which asked students to participate in surveys. According to Grimes, more information about Career Services will be available in the monthly e-newsletter, The Cornerstone.

“We have to move forward and we have to be creative about moving forward,” Picha said.

“When you work in an organization like ours, that’s service driven, that’s what you do, you serve students,” Sfraga said.

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