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Furlough translates to pay cut for most WCU professors

Western Carolina University professors who haven’t already done so are running out of time to take a mandatory 10-hour furlough by year’s end.

Earlier this year, Gov. Bev Perdue issued an executive order calling on all state employees to take 10 hours off, equivalent to a pay cut of a half of one percent.

While many of the state’s employees cashed in the furlough for a longer-than-usual July Fourth weekend, for teaching faculty in the university system, the furloughs have had a longer shelf life.

Western Carolina University’s staff and administrative employees all took the equivalent of a 10-hour furlough over the July Fourth weekend, but the teaching faculty returned this fall to learn that they would have to take their furloughs over the course of the current semester.

Rather than micromanaging faculty members with irregular office hours and teaching schedules, the university provost’s office, which directs academic affairs, decided to leave it up to the college deans how to handle the furlough — with the stipulation that it should in no way affect the instruction of students.

Dr. Richard Beam, Chair of WCU’s faculty senate, said his department has instructed faculty to record their 10 hours of leave over the course of the semester and to take it at times convenient to them. Beam said the policy is working fine, but it’s not really a true furlough.

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“Most faculty have accepted the situation. We’re only talking about 10 hours spread over a 15-week semester,” Beam said. “We’re talking about maybe one hour a week that can legitimately be called furlough time. I suppose it’s possible that some faculty are playing up the issue, but I’m certainly not hearing it’s an issue for the majority.”

Beam said the faculty has essentially treated the furlough as a pay cut and gotten on with their teaching.

“My impression is that most faculty are pretty much doing what I’m doing which is ignoring it,” Beam said. “We got a pay cut, and we’re living with it.”

Dr. Beverly Collins, who serves on the faculty senate and as a delegate to the UNC Faculty Assembly, said the implementation of the furloughs has been confusing but hasn’t disrupted teaching schedules.

“I think faculty now are confused about what the flexible furlough program means for them,” Collins said. “Most faculty members I have talked with simply are continuing to teach classes, attend meetings, and mentor students as usual.”

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