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SBU adopts changes, cuts positions

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SBU’s campus sits empty after leaders closed the campus in March due to concerns caused by the spread of COVID-19. 

Nearly two years into a strategic planning process and months into the new coronavirus crisis, Southwest Baptist University announced details of a sustainability plan, which includes cutting two dozen positions.   

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According to a news release, SBU president Eric A. Turner presented the University Sustainability Plan to employees on Tuesday, June 2. The plan is “designed to guide the university through current and future disruptions to higher education.” 

To create the plan, the release said SBU’s executive cabinet focused on streamlining operations, distributing workload in a more-equitable manner, creating temporary savings measures and evaluating the university’s paradigm.

“Changes will be implemented throughout the next two academic years with a total savings of $3.2 million, about 5% of the overall budget,” the release said.  

Through the plan, SBU will “eliminate 14 positions through attrition,” a term which means employees aren’t replaced when they leave. Another 10 positions will be eliminated, the release said. 

The release said the 24 cut jobs include both faculty and staff positions across all of the university’s campuses.  

The university didn’t specify how many of those eliminated positions will be in Bolivar.  

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SBU President Eric Turner speaks at his inaugural ceremony in April 2019.

“A work group is determining avenues for cost savings in athletics,” the release added. 

The plan includes enacting an incentive program for retirement for eligible employees, as well as changes to employee benefits like a “tuition benefit adjustments, a reduction in employee-sponsored life insurance benefits and a revamped paid time off program,” the release said. 

Health and retirement benefits won’t be affected, the release said.  

Over the next two academic years, the university will also increase the faculty load from 24 credit hours to 30 hours. 

“This approach reduces the number of positions to be eliminated and collectively shares the burden,” the release said.  

The plan also includes restructuring of the university’s six colleges and 26 academic departments to a consolidated academic structure of three colleges and 12 divisions. 

Students will see a change in residence life, the release said, with a combination of resident directors and assistant resident directors overseeing residence halls and apartments. 

The university plans to “discontinue optional academic program accreditations and reduce electronic library resources based on usage data and price-per-click,” the release said.  

Matt Kimbrough, assistant professor of theology, will serve as the assistant provost for spiritual formation, the release said.  

“In addition to leading the Redford Division of Theology and Ministry, he has been charged with leading University Ministries in an effort to accomplish the university focus of holistically developing students and church relations,” the release said.  

Upcoming operational changes include reducing swimming pool operation hours, continuing to review all vendors and consultants as renewal dates approach and temporarily reducing professional development expenses with the development of a new allocation system, the release said.  

The release said changes would also come to the university’s leadership through the reorganization of the executive cabinet “to allow for greater agility in planning and in reacting to changing forces.” 

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SBU faculty, staff and trustees are led by bagpipe to Mabee Chapel before university president Eric Turner’s inauguration in April 2019. 

 

“There are no salary reductions, no freezes in retirement contributions, and no changes to health insurance,” Turner said in the release. “There are, however, many difficult changes, and it will take time for all of us to fully adjust. I am confident these changes are positive steps toward solving our budgetary challenges and positioning us to fund our strategic plan in a compelling, mission-centric way.”

In the release, Turner said the university is “addressing historic budgetary issues,” as well as enrollment concerns caused by COVID-19, through the plan.

Per previous coverage, SBU has reported flat or declining enrollment since 2013.   

“However, we also want to plan for the future,” Turner said. “There is an enrollment decline in high school seniors coming in 2026 and beyond, and we need to be positioned to navigate the challenges it presents.” 

Turner said university leadership doesn’t want “a budget that is simply balanced,” the release said. 

“We want a margin for reinvestment in people, programs and facilities,” he said. “We need to have the resources to fund the strategic plan, to implement the compensation study and to fulfill the facilities master plan.”

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