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In an email to UTEB, UB proposes cost-cutting measures

The University of The Bahamas (UB) is considering implementing a hiring freeze, early retirement for some staff and a hold on bonus payments and promotion increases, UB President Dr. Rodney Smith wrote.

The “cost cutting measures”, from UB’s Administrative Council, were sent to the Union of Tertiary Educators of The Bahamas (UTEB) for feedback on May 1.

Smith noted that the proposed measures are “an effort to address the government’s directive to cut spending as a result of the economic crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic”.

“Please note that as one cost-cutting measure for the current fiscal year, all members of the Administrative Council have authorized their own salary deductions, up to 10 percent,” Smith wrote in an email to UTEB President Daniel Thompson.

“This reduction is in addition to the suspension on all mileage allowance. It is done in an effort to ensure that all UB employees receive an income.”

Smith added, “Administrative Council recommends a hold on all hiring, with selective hiring subject to approval by the president (and based on national initiatives and revenue production).

“Administrative Council recommends that the following persons be encouraged to take retirement: Persons at age 65 years who are vested in the government pension; persons who have retired, are receiving government pension already and have been given month-to-month employment; [and] based on years of service, 30 years for early retirement or 40 years to receive maximum benefits for persons vested in the government pension.”

According to Smith’s email, the council also recommended that bonus payments and promotion increases be put on “hold”; that all current salaries and benefits stay the same and that all “non-essential expenses” be canceled for the remaining year.

The email noted that non-essential expenses include work study, retreats and workshops and operational costs like paper supplies, office supplies and water.

Smith encouraged staff to go paperless and bring their own water, “using reusable containers”.

“It is also anticipated that there will be an increase in enrollment of students for fall 2020 and spring 2021,” Smith wrote.

He added that based on the models, the council is recommending “that policy regarding class-size be increased to allow for accommodation of students within a hybrid teaching environment (online and face to face, practicing social distancing)”.

Smith indicated that this “will not require an increase in work load or number of courses taught”.

While Smith noted that the measures have not yet been implemented, Thompson opposed a number of the suggestions.

In a response to Smith, Thompson wrote, “The recommended reduction in faculty members when juxtaposed with the level of part-time engagement is unacceptable.

“Further, given the need to maintain academic integrity and the need to ensure the maintenance of institutional knowledge, it would be counterproductive to even suggest the removal of our most seasoned faculty.”

UB, like other schools across The Bahamas, has been closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government ordered that schools engage in online classes instead of holding in-person sessions.

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