The Daily Egyptian

SIU faculty member volunteers to take unpaid leave

Monday, September 20, 2010

CARBONDALE, Ill. — William Freivogel knew the Southern Illinois University's School of Journalism would be hit hard this year by the proposed 4 percent budget cut.

So Freivogel, the school's director, asked to take a two-month unpaid educational leave that would be spread throughout the school year, a move that cost him about $17,000 but saved the school three positions, he said.

With the university likely to face an $11.5 million shortfall for fiscal year 2011, Chancellor Rita Cheng said in an e-mail to university personnel Aug. 2 that she had asked each department on campus to submit plans for an average 4 percent reduction in its budget for the fiscal year.

Freivogel said the school would have lost the faculty positions held by Carolyn Kingcade and Vicki Kreher, as well as receptionist Sherida Evans, who would have been reassigned to another department. The school had to come up with about $106,000 to save the positions, he said.

After he received word during the first week of August about the cuts, Freivogel sent a note to Gary Kolb, dean of the College of Mass Communications and Media Arts, to explain how they would affect the school, he said.

Freivogel then sent a counter proposal that included cuts in the school's operating budget and his decision to take an unpaid educational leave, he said.

Freivogel said he would take parts of the leave around Christmas break, spring break and the end of the school year to minimize its effect as much as possible.

He said he asked the faculty for their opinions before he sent the counter proposal, and support to save the positions was unanimous.

"If even one person on the faculty had raised questions it would have been hard to push forward with it, certainly if a couple of people had been disgruntled about it," Freivogel said.

Kolb said he thinks Freivogel has done a terrific job since he came to the position and has pushed for new initiatives within the school, such as multimedia projects and the redesign of the journalism curriculum.

Freivogel entered the School of Journalism as interim director in 2006 after 34 years at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, he said. He became the permanent director the following year.

Kolb said he was caught off guard when he first received Freivogel's proposal because neither he nor the university has asked anyone to take an unpaid leave. However, he said he was not surprised that Freivogel would be willing to do something that would help the school.

"Given Bill's character, it doesn't surprise me that he was willing to do that," Kolb said.

Kreher, an advertising professor who was able to remain in her position in part because of Freivogel's proposed unpaid leave, said his decision means a lot to her.

"It means that I have a job, and not just a job," she said. "It means I'm here, I'm still part of this."

Kreher said she has worked for many companies and Freivogel is one of the few bosses she has worked for who doesn't have a personal agenda.

She also said she is impressed with the level of trust Freivogel has in his faculty.

"He trusts us, and that's something that's rare," she said. "It's the sign of a really good leader."

Freivogel said he came in during a time when the faculty was divided, but with time, he has been able to create relationships among the faculty based on trust.

"I think that we all have been able over the years since then to pull together and have a lot of trust in each other," he said. "I have trust in every member of the faculty who we send into the classroom."

Kreher said Freivogel has worked to provide students opportunities to succeed and is willing to look in new directions.

"He's open to ideas," she said. "He's really always looking for better ways to serve the students, better ways to improve the educational experience for students, and he's great to work for."