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Brutal news: 650,000 university employees lost their job in 2020

The Chronicle of Higher Education has the details.

Colleges and universities closed out 2020 with continued job losses, resulting in a 13-percent drop since last February. It was a dispiriting coda to a truly brutal year for higher ed’s labor force.

Preview of 2021? Two colleges plan program cuts, another lays off 300+

Photo: Anthony Moretti

This was a bad week for higher education. It might also be a sign of what’s to come in 2021.

The leaders at the University of Evansville and the College of St. Rose announced program cuts, and more than 300 people were laid off at George Washington University.

The economic fallout from coronavirus prompted all three decisions. There’s every reason to believe the economic chaos facing higher education will continue into 2021 and beyond.

Public institutions across the country face further cuts in state funding. Many privates in the northeast and Midwest face enrollment challenges because of declining college-age populations. Unemployment and economic fears are sure to prompt students to delay (or cancel) college dreams.

What took place in Indiana, New York and the nation’s capital appear certain to be repeated in other states in the coming year.

Potential for 350 faculty cuts in Pennsylvania

Photo: Anthony Moretti, 27May2017

The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reports as many as 350 full-time faculty throughout Pennsylvania could be laid off over the next few months.

The cuts would bring faculty-student ratios more in line with enrollment declines over the last decade — part of a system redesign in the works since January 2017. The timeline to achieve that initially was five years, but Chancellor Daniel Greenstein condensed that to two years this spring as the pandemic compounded financial struggles at the 14 member universities.

I wrote this blog post earlier today, but I was unaware of the announcement about the potential cuts mentioned above.

U of Michigan eliminates 21 jobs in athletics

Throughout higher education, there’s a developing — and uncomfortable — thread: Cutting sports and jobs in athletics departments ought to be a priority in dealing with the economic fallout from coronavirus.

The argument goes something like this: Athletics is not essential to the higher education mission and therefore trimming sports and the men and women associated with that sport or from the department in general is appropriate before cutting anywhere else.

Lost in that weak sauce argument is that each of those people is being punished simply because of his or her association with sports. Imagine the outrage if people in athletics strenuously called for academic staff to be unloaded; the hue and cry would be instantaneous, and those people calling for such job cuts would instead be the ones on the unemployment line.

That’s the background to the news out of Ann Arbor, Michigan, where today almost two-dozen athletic department personnel were let go by the University of Michigan.

According to the Detroit Free Press,

Athletic director Warde Manuel announced Tuesday afternoon the department is eliminating 21 positions while facing “a potential revenue loss of $100 million.”

Manuel’s revenue-loss projections came during a podcast released Tuesday. He followed up hours later with a statement publicizing a round of nearly two dozen layoffs.

No, athletics ought not be the first place to look for fiscal savings as the coronavirus pandemic drags on. The 21 people who are now former employees at Michigan hope you understand that.

Faculty union rejects deal offered by University of Akron

Cleveland.com reports the acrimony between the administration and the faculty at the University of Akron has gotten worse.

Since the proposed agreement was rejected, Akron-AAUP’s current contract will remain effective until Dec. 31, 2020. Faculty whose jobs were eliminated as part of the July 15 cuts will no longer be employed as of Aug. 22, pending an arbitration ruling.

The union has announced it will take two grievances to arbitration: the university invoking a clause in the union contract that allows for layoffs, pay cuts and furloughs of faculty members, regardless of tenure or rank, and UA invoking the contract’s “force majeure” clause, which says that “unforeseen, uncontrolled and catastrophic circumstances” beyond the control of the university could make implementing parts of the bargaining agreement impossible or unfeasible.