Eighty one Ohio University employees were notified on June 23 that their positions have been eliminated.
This personnel reduction includes classified employees, or service workers like custodians and groundskeepers, according to a letter written by OU President Duane Nellis.
The university, however, stated that it expects to rehire 23 of these positions for “an anticipated net reduction of 58 positions,” according to the letter.
A total of 63 classified positions, 17 administrative positions, and one hourly research position that is classified as a non-bargaining unit/unclassified have been eliminated across the university, the release stated. Of those positions, 44 are part of the university’s “administrative support reorganization” in the College of Arts and Sciences.
“In order to create a college centralized service model, the College of Arts and Sciences will post 23 new jobs: 20 classified and 3 administrative,” Nellis said in the letter.
The remaining 38 eliminated positions are in various academic and administrative units across the university, according to the Nellis.
Once the new positions in the College of Arts and Sciences service center are filled by current employees, the university expects a net reduction of 43 classified staff positions, 14 administrative positions, and one hourly position that is classified as non-bargaining unit/unclassified, or a total of 58 positions overall, Nellis stated.
“As you know, the university faced budget challenges prior to the pandemic as a result of shifting enrollments, which has made it necessary for us to respond with even more urgency to address our new realities,” Nellis wrote in the statement.
Classified employees who were notified that their positions have been eliminated received a 14-day notice followed by severance benefits based on their years of service, the letter stated. In addition, administrative employees received a 90-day notice, followed by eligible severance benefits.
“We are doing all we can to support our employees who are impacted by these difficult decisions,” Nellis wrote. The university is implementing the following additional measures:
Expanding educational benefits to include one year of post-employment tuition waivers even if employees are not currently enrolled in an academic program. Prior to this change, employees were limited to continue programs in which they were currently enrolled.
Extending dependent educational benefits to eligible dependents who were admitted to programs, even if not yet enrolled.
Partnering with experienced providers for personalized employment transition services available to all employees whose positions have been eliminated, including those notified today.
Nellis stated in his letter that “most of the institution’s operating costs are in personnel.” According to a recent report by The Athens NEWS, documents given to The NEWS through a public records request indicate future savings of more than $3 million for the university from layoffs of 53 instructional faculty members, who recently received one-year notices of non-renewal on their contracts.
Before the June 23 layoffs, the university laid-off 140 union classified staff workers and 53 instructional faculty. Additionally, it announced the abolition of 149 administrative positions.
However, as a part of a "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,” Nellis wrote in a letter previously reported in The Athens NEWS.
He called that a “net reduction” of 94 administrative positions. In addition, the university announced that 74 faculty members enrolled in the voluntary separation or retirement program, which provided some faculty financial incentives to step down from their positions or retire early.
Out of the earlier layoffs, steep faculty cuts were made into the College of Arts and Sciences’ Linguistics Department, namely the English Language Improvement Program (ELIP) and the Ohio Program of Intensive English (OPIE).
ELIP works with students to refine their English skills. OPIE, on the other hand, works with international students to refine their English reading, writing, listening and grammar skills before they're enrolled into other university classes, The NEWS previously reported.
Faculty within the College of Arts and Sciences also saw cuts in the English, Philosophy, Physics & Astronomy, and Sociology & Anthropology departments. The College of Business will also lose five faculty members, according to documents released by the university.
“Prior to the pandemic, the University implemented a series of measures to reduce costs, including a voluntary separation and retirement program for tenured faculty and administrators who hold faculty rank and enacting more restrictive university spending guidelines," Nellis said.
"Additionally, we implemented operational efficiencies through increased scrutiny for hiring and a mandatory post-pandemic furlough for non-bargaining unit faculty and staff.”
According to 2019-2020 data, the university once had 3,889 total full-time and 1,012 part-time employees across its campuses. Among its full-time workers, 1,235 were faculty, 1,587 were administrators and 1,067 were classified staff.
As previously reported by The Athens NEWS, OU is the biggest employer in the county (and one of the biggest in southeast Ohio). According to data from the Athens Area Chamber of Commerce, OU employed 4,169 people (part- and full-time) in 2016, followed by OhioHealth with 1,004, Athens County with 567, Hocking College with 550, Athens City Schools with 417 and Rocky Brands with 350.