Walter Hall march

This group of OU faculty protesters marched to OU's Walter Hall in early January, where OU's January Board of Trustees meeting was being held and Trustees discussed the university's budget. This was prior to the current pandemic. Photo by Conor Morris.

Ohio University President Duane Nellis stated in a campus-wide email Friday that the university likely will need to reduce staffing in “most if not all” academic colleges and administration divisions due to ongoing budget struggles, largely the result of declining enrollment in recent years.

Nellis in his email said that after months of analysis and campus conversations, Provost Chaden Djalali reported to OU’s academic deans this week that they probably will need to reduce their budgets by a total of roughly $26 million over the next three years. Meanwhile, OU’s administrative units will need to develop a plan to make reductions of “at least $8 million” across their budgets.

The OU chapter of the American Association of University Professors (OU AAUP) issued a letter to OU President Nellis Monday (March 2) demanding a public commitment from Nellis to "halt further non-renewals of instructional faculty" at OU. You can read a copy of the letter below.

If OU administration doesn't respond to that request by March 16, the OU AAUP chapter said it will "begin to inform current students, prospective students, alumni, and local and state leaders of the radical changes that are taking place at OHIO, and how they are compromising our ability to deliver on our core educational mission."

Nellis in his letter noted that recent offers of voluntary separation agreements and early retirement incentives for some staffers will “alleviate the need for some reductions,” but not all.

“We can and we must find savings in non-employee expenses, and we are enacting spending controls on external costs, such as consulting contracts,” Nellis said. “However, the majority of our operational costs, like most universities, are in our employees, and we will not be able to achieve reductions of this magnitude without reducing positions in most if not all colleges and administrative divisions.”

Robin Oliver, OU’s VP for communications and marketing, said in an email today that the $26 million total “will very likely be adjusted through review and discussion by our academic leadership and input from a cross-divisional group of faculty and staff recently brought together to inform the Strategic Initiative for Building a Dynamic Budget Model and Rebalancing Budgets.”

Jennifer Fredette, spokesperson for the OU chapter of the American Association of University Professors (OU AAUP), said in an email today that her organization is concerned about the impact of the proposed cuts.

“Budget challenges are perennial in higher education; but personnel cuts of the magnitude university deans are discussing are not,” she said. “There is no scenario in which the discussed layoffs of instructional faculty do not irreparable harm the educational mission of Ohio University. This is particularly true because we need these faculty to deliver on the newly announced OHIO Guarantee+, a marvelous program that helps ensure a timely graduation for our students.”

A source within the OU community earlier this week provided a copy of an email that OU College of Health Sciences and Professions Dean Randy Leite sent to his staff on Wednesday. In it, Leite explained that CHSP was asked by Djalali to make roughly $4.48 million in budget reductions over the next three academic years, which is about 13 percent of CHSP’s operating budget. Leite called that the largest budget cut his college has ever been asked to make.

“It is pretty obvious, though, that if this target remains in place for us, it will have a significant impact on how we operate and what we are able to sustain,” Leite wrote. “All of this would largely mean we would not be able to pursue many of the priorities and initiatives that have been a focus in our schools and departments over the past several years.”

Leite in his email added that the cuts CHSP is being asked to make are actually “one of the lowest” budget reduction targets that the academic colleges have been asked to make.

It’s not clear exactly how much each academic college has been asked to reduce their budgets.

The NEWS reported last May that OU’s various academic colleges had been asked to make roughly $19.3 million in budget reductions over the next four years. The biggest cuts over that time period were set to come from the College of Arts and Sciences, about $8 million, The NEWS reported. The new $26 million target is likely a continuance of that budget-reduction goal (meaning it’s not $19.3 million plus an additional $26 million that the colleges are being asked to cut), and it’s not clear how much the colleges have been able to cut their budgets since last May.

THE NEWS previously reported that most of OU’s administrative offices took a $4.8 million cut in 2018, along with another $1.5 million cut in 2019, and another $2.15 million cut more recently. 

The university confirmed in 2018 that it had laid off four people in its Finance and Administration division and “abolished” 12 total positions in those departments (eight of those jobs were unoccupied at the time).

Late in April 2017, OU similarly announced it had cut 13 positions in the Finance and Administration departments, eight of which were vacant positions, meaning five people were laid off. 

OU’s auxiliary departments – athletics, culinary and housing – are also set to make some reductions: About $2.5 million in FY18; $1.5 million in FY19; and almost $700,000 in FY2020, The NEWS previously reported. Athletics only contributed about $600,000 in reductions across those three years.

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