Lincoln University reorganization detailed

Five top positions cut as cost-saving measure

Five top Lincoln University employees are losing their jobs, and a sixth is being reassigned, under a reorganization plan school officials first acknowledged on Nov. 26, the Tuesday before Thanksgiving.

But LU officials didn’t finish meeting with affected employees until late last week, and didn’t release the list until Friday evening.

Some offices are being moved and other employees will be getting new duties. Their names and new assignments were not included in the list.

During a telephone interview last Wednesday, President Kevin D. Rome said most of the changes are effective Jan. 1, and are “all precipitated by the budget situation. … The unfortunate thing about most universities is that the largest portion of your budget is spent on personnel — so, when you have cuts, it’s almost impossible” to avoid affecting people’s jobs.

According to the list LU gave the News Tribune Friday, those losing their jobs are:

• Curtis Creagh, vice president for Administration, who was paid $114,781 a year.

• Ann Harris, interim vice president for Academic Affairs, $114,000.

• Benecia Williams, vice president for University Advancement, $102,000.

• Mark Friedman, Building and Grounds director, $64,415.

• Cara Holliday, a tutor, $30,046.

Harris and Williams have elected to retire, Rome said Friday, adding that LU “will make announcements next week for the two who retired.”

Theressa Ferguson is the sixth name on the list Lincoln provided Friday.

In looking for ways to save money, Rome said Wednesday he had focused on the vice president jobs LU created over the years.

“The vice president for Student Affairs (position) was eliminated, and Ms. Ferguson became the Dean of Students” effective Nov. 20, he said. Her responsibilities were reduced and her $102,000 a year salary dropped to $80,000, the school reported Friday — a nearly 22 percent pay cut.

Lincoln is a state-owned school, and part of its budget woes involves state funding reductions in recent years. The national economy also has played a role.

“And one of the reasons we’re in this situation is because of our enrollment,” Rome said. “We’re about 200 students less than we anticipated, which is a significant amount of money in our budget.”

Although Lincoln is looking at ways to boost the number of students who choose to attend the university — and stay until they graduate — Rome’s administration still must make changes now to avoid spending more than the school takes in.

Rome said the “goal is to be more efficient,” improving services to students while saving money.

“We are merging some areas, and through those mergers, where we may have had two (or three) directors, we’ll end up with one director,” he said. “We’re not eliminating any services to students.

“(That’s) one of the things that we wanted to be very cautious and aware of.”

The changes also don’t cut services tied to LU’s “open admissions” policy, which means anyone who has a high school diploma or its GED equivalent can be accepted to attend the school.

That means a number of people whose education may not be up to college standards, or who need assistance adjusting from high school to the college experience, in the past have been able to get assistance from LU.

“We’re not cutting any of those services,” Rome said last week, “but one of the things we are looking at is an effort to recruit better academically prepared students.”

In a memo sent Thursday to LU faculty and staff, and provided anonymously to the News Tribune, Rome said the changes were an effort “to remove any duplication, while also bringing together those areas that seem to have a natural correlation which will help us provide a better quality college experience.”

The changes include creation of two new “centers” — the Center for Academic Advising and the Center for Career and Academic Support.

The Academic Support Center will be moved to the Inman E. Page Library, while Academic Advising will be in Young Hall — the school’s administration building.

Although she wasn’t included on the list sent to the newspaper Friday, veteran employee Pat Pollock (in the former Center for Academic Enrichment) said Saturday she’s decided to retire because of the changes.

“We’ve been told they’re hoping that new programs will improve student retention,” Pollock said Saturday. “We were called in for a discussion last week … (then on Friday) we learned that one of our most dedicated and experienced colleagues (Holliday) was terminated.”

Others are being reassigned, she said, and “do not know, yet, what their role will be.”

Rome said almost all areas of the campus eventually will be affected by the changes, and others that may come in the future.

“We tried to avoid making any changes in Academic Affairs, because we don’t have a permanent (leader) yet,” he said. “And I didn’t want to make any changes until that person gets to have input.”

Although he’s the new president, on the job only since June 1, Rome said the personnel decisions weren’t any easier to make.

“It’s always the difficult position to be in, when you have to make such decisions,” he said. “I do not take this lightly — because any time you impact the life of someone, it’s a difficult decision.

“However, I was brought in to do a job — and I’m going to be forced to make some difficult decisions whether I want to or not.

“At the end of the day, we have to protect the institution.”

He said he’s informing the curators about the personnel changes, but the board gave him the authority to make changes without needing their approval.

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