Interim President Michael Bernstein speaking at a University Senate Meeting on Monday, Sept. 9. At the meeting, he announced that Stony Brook will be loosening its hiring restrictions. EMMA HARRIS/THE STATESMAN

The university will be loosening its hiring restrictions after “substantial progress” was made towards stabilizing the university budget, Interim President Michael Bernstein announced during a University Senate meeting on Monday, Sept. 9.

Departments that have approved and balanced budgets will now go through fewer layers of review and a more speedy hiring process, though ones without will continue to be scrutinized, Bernstein said. Bernstein didn’t specify which departments those might be.

“We’re starting to, quote, ‘liberalize’ the hiring process, but we’re not unleashing it completely, not just yet,” Bernstein said.

Since stepping in after former president Samuel Stanley announced his departure to Michigan State University in late May, former provost Bernstein announced “modest investments” in multiple campus initiatives and departments in an email with a budget update sent out on Aug. 1.

Stanley first announced the hiring freeze in March of last year in part to grapple with an $18 million budget shortfall, according to his budget message in 2018.

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A series of budget cuts also swept through departments, and some part-time faculty members were let go as the university faced mounting pressure to balance its budget and pay down what was once a $35 million deficit.

“One of the more painful parts of our process has been the hiring hold,” Bernstein said. “And this position control process has been very difficult and challenging for all the units, both academic and administrative.”

Frederick Walter, a member of the senate and professor of astronomy, said he was “cautiously optimistic” about the announcement.

“It’s a good thing, even if it’s not across the board,” Walter said. “It’s a step back towards normalcy. We have to see that his action matches his rhetoric for over the next year.”

Joanne Souza, Director of Biology Online and a lecturer in the Department of Biochemistry and Cell Biology, was also pleased with the announcement.

“You know exactly what’s going in and out of your budget,” Souza said. “The planning now has become much more on our side than on the administration side. But [we also have to] keep our budgets in line.”

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