Eleven percent of qualifying faculty applied for the university's buyout program and the financial impact those agreements is slated to remain unclear for years.
The names of applicants, obtained by the Herald, show the 21 faculty who signed up for buyouts are spread evenly across several university departments. Two are from the Communication Program, two are from the Department of Educational Leadership, two are from Biomedical Sciences and yet two more are from the Harold Hamm School of Geology and Geological Engineering.
The buyout program is a part of several ways the university is trying to cut $9.5 million the 2015-17 budget due to the state's budget falling below projections. The UND School of Medicine and Health Sciences is looking at $3.1 million in reductions.
UND spokesman Peter Johnson said it will be three years before the financial impact of the buyouts is clear because it's unknown if all applications will be accepted or whether adjunct faculty will be hired to continue supporting some academic programs.
"We're trying to plan for the future and take a good hard look at budgets overall," he said. "Even though we might not know for years we do know there is going to be some savings."
Johnson also said there was never a goal in place to get a certain number of the 187 faculty who qualified to sign up.
Communication professor Richard Schafer is teaching journalism at the University of Rwanda into the summer and said in an email he applied because he, at age 67, is past retirement.
"I do love being a faculty member at UND, and won't regret it if my application isn't approved," he said.
Executive Director and Chair of the UND School of Entrepreneurship Tim O'Keefe, one of the applicants, said he loves his job and would like to keep it but applied to start a dialogue about his own future and goals, as he's about a decade away from retirement age.
"I'm not looking to leave necessarily but I just look at this as something they've made available," he said. "There's a lot of time yet now between the time they say you're on the list to get this or you're not."
Philip Gerla, an associate professor of geology, said he signed up because his wife's medical condition requires frequent travel and he sees it as a chance to possibly expand on consulting opportunities in his career. Economics professor Fathollah Bagheri said he loves teaching and the community but signed up for personal reasons.
Aside from the aforementioned faculty, the Herald contacted 12 people on the list, all of whom either declined to comment or didn't respond.
O'Keefe, who has worked at UND since 1999, said he wanted to be transparent because he has already been open with those he works with. He is hopeful his application will facilitate a conversation about the future of the entrepreneurship program with or without him.
"I think the university has created an interesting opportunity for a lot of people here that is a win-win if it's handled properly and I have no doubt in my mind they will handle this in the best interest of the university and the people involved," he said.
Along with several other stipulations, the voluntary program was open to tenured faculty if the number of years they worked in the North Dakota University System added to their age was at least 70.
Those who are accepted into the program will receive one year's severance pay equal to their annual base salary for willingly leaving their positions June 30 and waiving any prior tenure rights. Applications were due Monday evening.
Buyouts have happened at universities across the country. The Chronicle of Higher Education reported more than 130 professors took advantage of buyouts at the University of Texas at Austin and Texas A&M University at College Station, saving the universities about $18 million annually in light of state budget cuts. The Chronicle also reported other buyout opportunities at the University of Missouri at Columbia in 2014 and Northern Arizona University in 2010.
According to publicly available documents on the UND website, the applications will now be considered, taking programmatic demands into account, by the human resources office, appropriate university dean's, finance staff and several administrators.
Interim President Ed Schafer will have the final say and applicants will have 45 days to review the agreement before signing it. Faculty will then have seven more days to revoke their acceptance should they change their mind.
Johnson said applicants will be contacted individually, not all together on one day.
A voluntary separation program is also open to staff and applications will be accepted through 4:30 p.m. Thursday. The same "rule of 70" applies and the program is limited to benefited employees.
Faculty who signed up for the Tenured Faculty Voluntary Separation Incentive Program
• Charles Robertson, Department of Aviation associate professor
• Lana Rakow, Communication Program department professor and Center for Community Engagement director
• Richard Shafer, Communication Program professor
• Fathollah Bagheri, Master of Science in Applied Economics professor
• James (Jim) Haskins, Department of Finance assistant professor
• Susan Nelson Department of Finance, professor
• Sandra Braathen, School of Entrepreneurship Information Systems professor
• Timothy O'Keefe, School of Entrepreneurship executive director and chair
• Glenda Rotvold, School of Entrepreneurship Information Systems associate professor
• Clare Francis Department of Management associate professor
• John Vitton Department of Management professor
• David Whitcomb, Counseling Psychology and Community Services assistant professor
• Brenda Kallio, Educational Leadership professor
• Daniel Rice, Educational Leadership professor
• Lynne Chalmers Department of Teaching and Learning Special Education Program professor
• Harvey Gullicks, Civil Engineering chairman and associate professor
• Philip Gerla, Harold Hamm School of Geology and Geological Engineering associate professor
• Richard Lefever, Harold Hamm School of Geology and Geological Engineering associate professor
• Kap Lee Director, School of Medicine and Health Sciences Center for Biomedical Research director
• Ann Flower, Department of Biomedical Sciences associate professor
• Thomas Hill, Department of Biomedical Sciences professor