Even though she knew she wouldn't get paid for it, Kawther Zaki, a professor at the University of Maryland in College Park, came to work yesterday.
"I don't particularly like this, but I have things to do," said the electrical engineering professor, the only person working in her office yesterday. "If I didn't come in, work would have been delayed, papers I need to sign for my students would have been delayed."
Dr. Zaki is one of the more than 2,500 faculty and staff workers scheduled for up to three days of furloughs to save money at the state's flagship campus. .
College Park administrators issued furloughs in October according to pay scale, ordering campus employees earning between $25,000 and $50,000 to take one day off; those earning $50,000 and $80,000 to take two days off; and administrators paid more than $80,000 to take three days off.
The furloughs -- mandated by campus officials to take place Dec. 24, yesterday and today -- are hindering some College Park graduate students faced with deadlines on research projects.
"The inconvenience, as far as I can see, is that some people are just not there. If you want something, then you just may have to wait until Monday," said Raymond Ng, a 28-year-old student wrapping up his doctorate in computer science.
"Most of the work the graduate students do depends on interaction with advisers and faculty," said Daniel Mosse, a 29-year-old graduate student also close to finishing his computer science doctoral work.
While some students say they are feeling the impact of employees being absent, some campus officials say that because the furloughs fall on days when school is out of session, students and the public do not fully appreciate the problems stemming from them.
"It may give the unfortunate impression that furloughs do no harm when class is not in session. By holding them when classes don't meet, the hurt doesn't show," said David Falk, an assistant academic affairs vice president who also came into work on one of his furlough days. "I'm here doing work and not getting paid for it."
Dr. Falk said when class is not in session, the College Park campus still provides services to the surrounding community and the state. "Many people are aware that we teach, but they are not aware of other things a university does," he said. College Park officials estimate that the three days of furloughs will save more than $1 million. College Park -- like most of the 10 other campuses in the University of Maryland System -- ordered the furloughs to compensate for the loss of state dollars. The state has dealt College Park nearly $40 million in cuts during the past two years.
Cynthia Hale, an administrative director at College Park who served on the committee that selected the furlough days, said the intention was not to cover up the budget problem but to protect students.
"There was a lot of feeling that to ask students to pay their tuition -- this semester a rise in their tuition -- and turn around and not teach was not right," Mrs. Hale said from her home yesterday.