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CSU outlines furlough plans as new students arrive

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

Clayton State University freshman, Krystal Harris, said she was ready to see what the college experience was like as she moved into her on-campus room at the university's Laker Hall facility on Thursday.

As Harris' mother, Kathleen Thompson, laid a gold-colored, bed spread on her daughter's new bed, she said the 18-year-old biology major from Decatur has never lived away from home.

So, what is the thing Harris was looking forward to most? Freedom, she said.

"I'm excited, because I want to feel what it's like to be independent," Harris said.

But, it isn't that simple. It never is when parents are involved. "I'm a student here as well, so I'll be over here a lot," Thompson said, as she and Krystal's father, Rohan Harris, helped the freshman get settled into her room.

Associate Dean of Students Jeff Jacobs said 120 students had moved into Laker Hall by noon, and a total of 300 were expected to settle into on-campus housing by the end of Thursday. Laker Hall has a capacity of 451 students.

While the new students were getting settled into their new digs, university Interim President Tim Hynes met with more than 100 faculty and staff members to discuss the school's plans to address funding reductions and mandatory employee furloughs.

The University System of Georgia's Board of Regents voted on Wednesday to implement six mandatory furlough days for the 2009-2010 school year, to meet funding reductions from Gov. Sonny Perdue. The furlough days can not impact employee retirement benefits, be applied to employees who make less than $23,600, or take away from classroom time, according to mandates from the regents.

The universities also have to prepare plans to address potential budget reductions of 4, 6 or 8 percent for Perdue's Office of Planning and Budget.

However, since Perdue has already asked state agencies to reduce their budgets by 5 percent, Hynes told faculty and staff that he is expecting Georgia universities to be required to, at least, go to the 6 percent. That would mean Clayton State's $25 million budget would be reduced by $1.5 million, according to a chart given to people who attended the meeting.

Clayton State will not go beyond the six mandated furlough days, Hynes said, unless the budget reductions go higher than the university is prepared for. The university has already established a plan for a 10 percent budget reduction, which would be $2.5 million, Hynes said. "If we're at 12, or 14 percent, then we'll have to sit down and have some serious conversations," Hynes said. "For right now, we have decided we would perform those obligations that were outlined by the university system [for furloughs] and go no higher."

Linda Corva, Clayton State's assistant vice president of business and operations, said the faculty furloughs will save an estimated $368,400 in salaries, while the staff furloughs will save an estimated $319,800. Corva said an additional $52,647 from benefits will be saved through the furloughs.

Hynes said money from the president's contingency funds, as well as unused money from the school's fiscal year 2009 budget, will be used to help offset funding reductions. Three of the six furlough days must be taken by the end of 2009.

· Two of the days the university will use for the most pressing furloughs have not been set in stone, although all possible faculty and staff plans call for a furlough day to be taken on Christmas Eve, which has been a vacation day for employees in the past.

· Under one proposal, all faculty will also be furloughed on Sept. 8 and Nov. 25.

· Under another proposal, the faculty would also be furloughed on Sept. 8, and the third day would be decided upon by the members of each academic department.

· The third faculty furlough proposal calls for each academic department to gather its members to decide what two furlough days it will take by the end of December.

· Under one staff furlough plan, Nov. 25 would be a furlough day with employees and their managers working together to choose the third day.

· Under the other staff plan, the employees and their managers would work together to chose both furlough days.

Complicating matters, at least in the eyes of some professors who attended the meeting, is a mandate from the university system that they cannot perform any work, including checking their Clayton State e-mail accounts, on their furlough days.

Corva said the USG will require employees to sign affidavits swearing they performed no work on their furlough days. That does not sit well with some faculty members, like mathematics professor, Cathie Aust, who is accustomed to answering e-mailed questions from students as late as 11 p.m., on school nights, and on weekends.

"This is going to impact our students, because we are a notebook [computer] campus, and the majority of contact we have with our students is through e-mail," Aust said. "I think a lot of faculty would have been OK with coming into the office for a few days, and just not getting paid for it, because we do so much work on our off-time at night, and on the weekend already."