Western Illinois University has renewed the teaching contracts of more than 100 associate faculty members for the upcoming school year.
The delay affected all Unit B employees in the union University Professionals of Illinois. They were notified in writing at the end of June that their employment status was in limbo; administrators decided to take a wait-and-see approach to renewing employment contracts while state budget negotiations played out in Springfield. WIU President Jack Thomas said the university was taking precautions in case the legislature failed to pass a budget for a third straight year.
“We had contingency plans in place from the best case scenario to the worst case scenario and then if we didn’t get funding we would have had to enact some of those plans,” Thomas said.
Western had to get by with little financial support from the state during the two-year long budget impasse. Lawmakers were able to pass a state budget this month despite Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto. The deal includes funding for higher education at about 90% of 2015 state appropriation levels.
Once Western received its first payment from the state under the new budget, it went ahead and renewed almost all Unit B contracts.
“We are very thankful that we were able to save jobs. We were able to keep people employed here. We still have to do some things but our job is to make sure we don’t have to layoff people,” Thomas said.
Thomas said 112 Unit B contracts were renewed for the upcoming school year. Only one person was laid off. Thomas said a handful of others didn’t wait for the university’s decision and instead either opted for retirement or to leave Western to work elsewhere.
Thomas said Western is still not out of the woods when it comes to dealing with the fallout from the budget impasse. He said the university will continue with other cost saving measures during the upcoming school year such as the employee furlough program.