Ohio University shared documents with The Athens NEWS last Friday detailing the more than 200 instructional faculty members and administrators who in May were either laid off or notified that their contracts will not be renewed, revealing many millions of dollars in savings for the institution and dispelling rumors of cuts to the African American Studies (AAS) and the Women’s, Gender and Sexuality Studies (WGSS) Departments.
The documents 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. Those faculty members will remain employed for the upcoming academic year in accordance with the OU faculty handbook, but will be terminated soon after.
Notably, no cuts were made to the AAS or the WGSS Departments, despite some faculty in those departments previously being under the impression that they may receive non-renewal notices on their contracts and erroneous news reports that suggested downsizing in both departments.
“We understand that conversations with department chairs may have led these individuals to believe their positions would not be renewed, but no official notice was ever given to them by the university,” OU Spokesperson Carly Leatherwood said in an email.
Leatherwood reiterated that final decisions on instructional faculty and administration cuts were not made “until shortly before” May 15 when OU President Duane Nellis made the announcement in a letter.
Steep faculty cuts were made, however, to 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 both international and domestic students on refining 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.
Faculty within the College of Arts and Sciences will also be cut in the English, Philosophy, Physics & Astronomy, and Sociology & Anthropology Departments. Additionally, The College of Business will lose five faculty members, according to the documents.
The Chillicothe, Eastern, Southern, Lancaster and Zanesville regional campuses will each lose a handful of faculty members across numerous academic departments.
It’s unclear in the documents exactly how much in savings the university is anticipating from the tentative layoffs of nearly 150 administrators, but it’s likely to be in the range of several millions of dollars. That’s because 55 administrators are expected to be rehired into different roles, according to the May letter from Nellis. And the nature or salaries of those new positions are unknown. Salaries of the tentatively eliminated administrative positions range from nearly $15,000 to about $123,000.
Ninety-four administrators will certainly be eliminated, according to the letter, but it’s not clear whom. Many of the administrators who were tentatively cut served as communications, marketing and media professionals across various university departments.
Another noteworthy inclusion on the list of tentatively terminated administrators is Athens City Council Third Ward Representative Samuel Crowl, who served as OU’s associate director of sustainability.
But about a week after Crowl lost his job, the same position was posted as a nine-month contract, which he applied to and was selected. He will return to work in August and the position will run into May 2021, Crowl said.
“Not being able to work this summer on the sustainability initiatives for which I was preparing this past semester is frustrating, but on the positive side my position reduction is helping the university survive and for that I am content with doing my part,” he said.
Crowl previously made about $46,000 while he was working as a full-time, salaried employee. However, he said that his new paycheck come August should be about the same size minus the three summer months he would otherwise be working.
The administration and instructional faculty layoff announcement came weeks after the university let go of 140 union members in the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 1699 who make up much of OU’s service workers including custodians, culinary employees and groundskeepers.
In addition, the university recently announced that 74 faculty members enrolled in the voluntarily separation or retirement program, which provided some faculty financial incentives to step down from their positions or retire early.
Many of OU’s financial troubles can be traced back to a continued trend of declining enrollment at the institution, Nellis wrote in the May letter. He also announced that, as a result, both he and OU Provost Dr. Elizabeth Sayrs plan to take a 15 percent salary reduction.
Nellis’ salary before the reduction was about $489,000, plus a $71,000 bonus that was granted to him in 2019 by the OU Board of Trustees, according to a previous report in The NEWS. His new salary after the pay cut will be about $416,000.