November 22, 2010

Funds will assist employees, support scholarships

by Tom Woolf

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- Two funds established at Southern Illinois University Carbondale will help address short-term financial need for some employees and assist future students through scholarships.

In a Nov. 19 e-mail to the campus community, Chancellor Rita Cheng announced that the SIU Foundation Board of Directors is providing a $10,000 grant to the University as an emergency fund for employees. The first of four unpaid administrative closure days, which will address a $2.6 million budget deficit, is set for Wednesday, Nov. 24. The closure days will occur when classes are not in session, and they do not affect graduate assistants or undergraduate student employees.

Cheng hosted a town hall meeting on Nov. 16 to discuss the budget situation, and approximately 400 employees and students attended. Several employees voiced concerns about the impact of unpaid closure days on fellow workers.

“We are facing an unprecedented financial crisis, and though this was a very difficult decision, asking our employees to sacrifice in this manner is preferable to layoffs,” Cheng said. “During the town hall meeting, I was overwhelmed by the generosity of employees who volunteered to give up additional days to assist colleagues. While that’s not something we can do without significant administrative expense, we are sensitive to the concerns about the burden unpaid closure days may create for some of our employees.”

Cheng also said she plans to take six unpaid closure days, and each vice chancellor will take five unpaid closure days.

Details about the emergency fund, available for the current fiscal year, will be available through SIUC’s Human Resources office.

F. Lynn McPheeters, president of the SIU Foundation Board and a 1964 graduate of the University, said the board recognizes the commitment and service of all SIUC employees, and “while everyone needs to tighten their belts during the current budget crisis, we want to help take care of our own people demonstrating significant need.”

Also, the SIU Foundation is creating a fund to support scholarships for high-achieving, incoming freshmen, with the goal of making funds available to students as soon as the fall 2011 semester.

Cheng noted that the new scholarship fund offers an opportunity for employees and friends of SIUC to help attract more students, adding that she is pleased to make the first contribution.

Rickey N. McCurry, vice chancellor for institutional advancement and CEO of the SIU Foundation, said, “Support for scholarships such as this one allows the University to attract, enroll and retain more students for the long-term health of the institution. As more students are enrolled here, more jobs can be supported by the campus through generation of additional tuition revenues.”

Any money remaining in the emergency fund at the end of the fiscal year will be transferred into the new scholarship fund.