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USF seeks more faculty members

Though Florida’s public universities will likely face another round of mid-year budget cuts from the state, USF plans on hiring 75 additional faculty members, beginning in the fall 2009 semester.

The hiring would affect all areas of the Tampa campus except USF Health, which has its own budget.

“There really is a bona fide need across all colleges for more faculty,” said Dwayne Smith, senior vice provost.

More than $6 million has been set aside for the salary and benefits of the new faculty, Smith said. The money will come from new revenues generated by tuition increases and differential tuition — a cost that applies to the freshman class and beyond and is not covered by the Bright Futures scholarship program. Also, money from vacant positions will go toward taking on more faculty members.

With the threat of additional budget cuts looming, these sources may not be enough to fund everything. Students will likely have to pay the difference.

“There is no question, tuition will be going up,” Smith said.

A rumored mid-year budget cut from the state Legislature could affect the amount of hiring next year. Gov. Charlie Crist has asked all state agencies — which includes USF and the State University System’s 10 other public universities — to submit proposals for lopping another 10 percent off their budgets. Crist spokesman Sterling Ivey told the Associated Press that this request does not mean that university budgets will be cut by that amount.

Universities will have a clearer picture of the potential cuts, however, when Crist submits his 2009-2010 budget proposal to the state Legislature in January.

Throughout this time, USF is focusing on continuing its search to fill the 75 positions and on retaining tenured faculty.

“We have a real strong commitment to hire the ones we are searching for now,” Smith said. “We might have to cancel some searches, but will do everything we can not to.”

In previous years, the University has hired more than 100 people annually, said Sherman Dorn, president of United Faculty of Florida at USF.

Hiring more faculty would be beneficial because it would relieve some of the workload on current members and replace those who have been lost due to retirement, Dorn said. But it could prove difficult for USF.

“They are losing candidates because USF pays relatively low compared to other research institutions,” he said.

The University is trying to hire faculty at market rates, but doing so further strains an already stretched budget.

“Faculty salaries have been rising at the entry-level. We are able to hire less faculty now then before because of where the salary starts,” Smith said.

Non-tenure positions will be the easiest to fill, along with fields in which there is relatively low job competition, Dorn said.

He said if he were a recent graduate looking for a position, he would look beyond the Sunshine State.

“I would stay out of Florida because the state budget is collapsing, and the state Legislature has an inflexible attitude toward the budget, they will only cut,” he said.

In addition to struggles to attract new faculty, pay is also an issue in keeping faculty, Dorn said. Since last spring, more than 13 faculty members have left the University for jobs elsewhere.

“We are losing faculty and will probably continue to lose them faster than we can gain them,” he said.