Entering a time of difficult change
The following message was shared with the campus community on Friday, May 15.
This moment in our University’s history weighs heavily on my mind and in my heart. I deeply recognize and empathize with the feelings of concern and angst that have been reverberating through our community and University as we continue to understand how our financial picture would frame the very difficult decisions we have made and that lay ahead.
Two weeks ago, I shared what we already knew about the budget challenges we faced prior to the pandemic as a result of shifting enrollments, and how this global crisis has made it necessary to respond with even more urgency in order to address our new realities. The initial measures we took to reduce our expenses have had an impact on our financial position but still fall far short as we respond to this unparalleled disruption to higher education and to fluctuations in our global economy. Based on what we now know, even in this volatile landscape, we must make more fundamental decisions, that are far more reaching than we ever considered prior to the pandemic.
Today’s Difficult Actions
We must now take actions that will deeply impact our institution – in particular people who have been our respected and valued colleagues. While it is not ideal to share this update late on a Friday, I am doing so out the immense respect I hold for our University colleagues, including instructional faculty members who were given their final-year notice and administrators who were notified earlier today that their positions were being eliminated. They are only beginning to process these decisions, and I regret the real and deep impact today’s difficult actions will have on them and their families.
These decisions were made based on a number of factors and should in no way minimize or erode the positive contributions that our colleagues who received notifications today have made to our university. Rather, a lack of available work, reduced demand for certain programs and services, and necessary restructuring to improve operational efficiencies led to the choices that were made.
Today, we issued non-renewal notices to 53 instructional faculty members. In accordance with our Faculty Handbook, those faculty members received a one-year notice of non-renewal and will have an ongoing appointment for the upcoming academic year. I can also share that 74 faculty members enrolled in the Voluntary Separation or Retirement Program (VSRP) we offered to tenured faculty earlier this year.
Additionally, we notified 149 administrators that their positions were being abolished. As part of University-wide realignment projects in communications and marketing and University Advancement, as well as departmental reorganizations, the University expects to rehire 55 administrators into new positions. As we move employees into newly defined roles, we expect a net reduction of administrative positions of 94.
We will do all we can to support our employees who are impacted by these difficult decisions. This support extends to the 140 employees in our American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) bargaining unit who were notified on May 1 that their position would be eliminated on June 1.
We have partnered with an external organization to provide transition support to any faculty or staff member affected by these or future notifications. Our partner has experience working with professionals in both academic and administrative fields and will help impacted employees with support such as strengthening their resume or CV, developing career marketing plans, and connecting with recruiters.
Over the past several weeks, the notion of furloughs has been discussed increasingly within higher education, but also on our campuses to determine if such an action would be an appropriate temporary cost savings measure for our University. As part of those discussions, I received consistent feedback from our University stakeholders that if we were to implement a furlough, we should develop a tiered structure, minimizing the impact on employees in our lower pay bands. I agree with this desire for a structure that would be both sensitive and flexible. However, our furlough policy did not allow such considerations, so I authorized our executive policy committee, led by Provost Elizabeth Sayrs, to develop an interim furlough policy to allow for this tiering.
Following that action, an implementation plan was then developed, and this structure was informed by input from Budget Planning Council, the committee working on the Strategic Initiative to Build a Dynamic Budget Model and Rebalance Our Budget, our Academic Leadership, and the Chief Finance and Administrative Officers.
We will institute our furlough next fiscal year, which begins on July 1, 2020, and this action will save the university approximately $13 million in FY21. This measure will be applied to all administrative, faculty and classified non bargaining employees as follows:
Employees who are at the minimum of the pay scale for their job classification or at the minimum Fair Labor Standards Act salary threshold will be exempt from the wage reduction. The furlough will include 7 mandatory days that will extend the University’s closure periods for Thanksgiving and winter break. Employees may take the remainder of their furlough days at their discretion with approval from their supervisor.
In addition to the salary reduction of 15 percent that Provost Sayrs and I will take, I have asked members of President’s Council and Deans Council to take salary reductions of 10 percent or more for FY21. I can share that many Vice Presidents and Deans as well as our Athletic Director have already committed to these reductions, and our head football coach and head men’s basketball coach will take voluntary salary reductions of 10 percent.
Today’s actions were far-reaching, but I want to be upfront they will not be our final steps as we move toward the beginning of FY21. Some colleges and divisions are continuing to work through reorganization plans that required additional time and study to ensure the right decisions are made for the future of the University.
Our Pathway Forward
I recognize the weight of the decisions I share this evening on the entirety of our community. Today was a difficult day for our colleagues who received notifications. Admittedly, it is an emotional day for us all. This simply is a very painful time during an unprecedented moment in our history as a community, a state, and a nation.
However, as we continue to face difficult decisions, we have every reason to be hopeful for the future of Ohio University. Our University has weathered crises and storms in our 216-year history and become stronger, evermore ready to realize our mission, while increasing the value of an Ohio University experience for students. And we will do so now as we harness that unwavering strength and spirit to respond to the challenges before us.
My heart is with you all and I share my appreciation for you as we carry forward during this unprecedented chapter in our University’s history.
M. Duane Nellis
New State of the Budget Website
In our commitment to provide clear, timely, and responsive information about the state of our budget, this week we launched an informative website to provide links to resources, and more details about budget-related decisions, and actions: ohio.edu/budget. As we continue to evolve the information on this site in response to the fluidity of the current economic environment, we invite you to ask questions or make requests for additional content by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.