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CEU Lays Off Physical Plant Employees, Eliminates Student Forensics

Staff reporter

Several students walk across an empty main parking lot at College of Eastern Utah on Monday morning. To the casual observer, it may have appeared that school was not in session. But the lot was closed off in preparation for construction of the new Reeves building. The loss of 60 plus stalls in the lot will impact parking on the Price campus and in the surrounding neighborhoods. In addition to preparing for the new main building construction project, the college officially discontinued the student debate program last week and confirmed the lay off of four employees working at the physical plant on the Price campus.

The budget cuts mandated by legislative action at the state level in March has finally caught up with some employees at the College of Eastern Utah.

Last Thursday morning, it was announced that four employees of the colleges physical plant no longer had jobs.

"It was very difficult to let these people go," said Ryan Thomas, the president of CEU. "If we could have found any other way to do it, we would have."

During the last year, the administration at CEU knew the school was in financial difficulty and therefore started the cutback by not filling many positions that came open.

But the final straw came when the 2002 Utah Legislature met and didn't give any of the schools in higher or public education the money necessary to continue operating as they have in the past.

In total, the school has eliminated 20 positions in the past year, including last Thursday's reductions at the physical plant.

For all intents and purposes, the layoff eliminates the maintenance department section of the physical plant at the college.

Only the director of the department and one part-time employee remain in place.

"It will be very hard to get along without these people," stated Thomas. "They were some very high quality employees and we will just have to stump along without a regular maintenance crew until we can see what funds will be available next year."

The other department in physical plant, the custodial department, will not be touched as of now.

At the present time, the custodial department on the CEU campus in Price has three positions vacant and it is unclear whether or not the jobs will be filled.

"I know people are nervous and some are waiting for the other foot to fall," said Thomas referring to other employees on the Price campus who fear more cutbacks. "But both feet are on the floor right now. We plan no other cuts at this time. We have balanced the budget."

The physical plant at the college had undergone large reductions in staff during the last few years before Thursdays layoff.

While the school has grown in size, the maintenance staff had dropped to less than one-third of what it was in 1994 and the custodial staff also lost some positions.

The four positions cut from the college's staff last week were the only actual layoffs that have occurred to date, according to officials. The rest of the employee reductions have been done by attrition.

"We will have to look at our finances and decide what to do," stated Thomas. "Right now we have no long term plans."

Possibilities include hiring some part time people later or even contracting out some of the services that were done by the previous in-house staff.

The selection of these positions for elimination was determined by the fact that the schools main function is education and that is what must be protected first.

"Our core function is education," stated Thomas. "There were just no other things we could cut at this point."

The Utah Legislature's cuts in money from the state were not known until March, which made it much too late for CEU to look at any faculty cuts other than through attrition.

According to the college's employment policies, any cuts for in-place faculty must be announced by Dec. 15 of the year before. The reductions in state-allocated budgets were announced too late for the actions.

The college also announced that the forensics program will be discontinued next year as well. The action was no surprise to most people who realized that with the present debate coach leaving to take a job in Missouri, and his position not being refilled due to budget constraints, the program would probably be eliminated.

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