The University of Montana said 22 faculty members have agreed to voluntarily leave the campus between the end of this year and June 2021.
The "irrevocable" departure pledges are one of the last data points UM is collecting before the administration knows if cuts to tenured faculty will be necessary to close a $10 million structural deficit. UM is looking to save $5 million in instructional staffing, or in tenured and tenure-track faculty positions.
Tuesday, Provost Jon Harbor said he did not have an estimated value for the 22 departures. However, he said deans and chairs will receive information specific to their programs in order to help them plan budgets.
"They're from a wide range of departments and colleges, and in many cases, they will help the university reach its overall target," Harbor said of the departing faculty.
Oct. 26 is listed on the provost's timeline as the date deans will submit recommendations for hitting budget targets. Nov. 5 is listed as the date the president will form a review committee for retrenchment — a process to cut tenured faculty — if necessary.
Last semester, President Seth Bodnar made recommendations for 50 faculty reductions from a variety of programs.
The administration released budget goals this semester for UM colleges and schools. The reductions from last fiscal year to 2021 total $5 million across the campus.
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The bulk of the reduction, at $3.9 million, will come from the College of Humanities and Sciences, which also counts the bulk of the instructional budget. The college will go from spending $19.7 million on tenured and tenure-track faculty to $15.8 million, according to finance data from UM.
Jenny McNulty, interim dean of the College of Humanities and Sciences, said in an email she has not received word yet of the number of "voluntary end-of- employment" agreements that are coming from her college. However, she said the large college sees retirements every year.
"The current process is a bit unusual in that we are learning in advance of faculty member's plans," McNulty said. "By design, this is helpful to our planning."
Paul Haber, president of the University Faculty Association, said he believes the administration is doing everything in its power to avoid retrenchment or to minimize the number of faculty reductions through the process. He said he believes the most recent action by the administration to collect departure pledges is within the union contract if faculty signed agreements voluntarily.
Some people may have felt compelled to promise departures given staffing levels in their departments, he said. The voluntary agreement notes the decision is "irrevocable" and can only be reversed if the faculty member and provost agree.
"I think individual people feel pressure when they look at a situation in their unit and they see that we've got to make these budgets," Haber said.
Harbor also said five faculty signed agreements to reduce employment hours, and three similar requests from faculty are pending.