USC’s university-wide hiring freeze finally came to a conclusion on July 1, but officials say that departments will still be carefully evaluating the need to create new positions from here on out.
The university initiated the freeze in 2008 as a financial buffer in the slowing economy. The freeze was originally scheduled to end in June 2009, but university officials announced an extension of the freeze last year.
“The hiring freeze was a pre-emptive move to make sure we wouldn’t be in a position where we would have to cut out any of our programs,” said Robert Cooper, vice provost for planning and budget.
Before the freeze, departments could create new staff and faculty positions at their own discretion, as long as they had the funds to do so.
Anticipating that families of university employees could be impacted by the economy, USC initiated the freeze as a precaution to prevent any dramatic layoffs or other cutbacks during the economic recession.
“The financial issue for USC was minimal,” Cooper said. “We did not see a reduction in the number of students, so in terms of tuition revenue, we weathered the storm.”
The university implemented a new hiring process that asked each department to closely analyze new positions and streamline any administrative work during the freeze. Hiring requests were handled on a case-by-case basis within each department, before being sent to the university and then to the provost’s office for a final decision.
“Deans were to look at the positions and they were asked to only post the critical positions,” Cooper said.
Though the freeze is now over, the university will continue to follow the hiring procedures enacted for the last two years. The process requires analysis of each new position and top approval for those positions, Cooper said.
According to Cooper, the administration wanted to ensure that the student experience at USC would not change if the university experienced any sort of financial difficulty.
“It was not an across the board, ‘no exceptions made’ type of freeze,” Cooper said. “We wanted to make sure what we did didn’t impact the students.”
Geneva Overholser, director of Annenberg’s School of Journalism, said her department was able to make hires during the freeze when it was necessary.
“We are lucky since many of our fellow journalism schools, especially state schools, were not able to hire faculty,” Overholser said. “We have been very blessed with wonderful faculty hires we made during the freeze and I am grateful to the university for keeping the faculty lines open to hiring.”
Samantha Klein, a senior majoring in fine arts, said she did not notice any changes because of the hiring freeze.
“As a student, the only reason I knew there was a hiring freeze was because I heard people where I work in [Information Technology Programs] talking about it,” Klein said. “Other than that I didn’t notice anything, especially since the school stepped up the off-campus security with all the new guards.”
USC is currently looking to create 550 new positions.