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 announced in a letter early this evening (May 15) that the university will be terminating the contracts for 53 instructional faculty members, and will effectively be laying off 94 administrators.

Nellis in the letter explained that these layoffs come as the university has struggled with declining enrollment over the last few years, as well as the new financial challenges presented by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

OU similarly announced layoffs for 140 union workers on May 1, a group which consisted of custodians, cooks and maintenance staff, among others.

"This moment in our University’s history weighs heavily on my mind and in my heart," Nellis wrote in his letter. "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."

News has slowly been trickling out over the last two weeks about contract terminations for faculty members. In accordance with the faculty handbook, the 53 faculty members terminated will finish the next year of teaching before their contracts will be terminated.

"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," Nellis added.

Meanwhile, Nellis said that OU has notified a total of 149 administrators that their positions were being "abolished," 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." The release does not mention any guarantee that the administrators who were laid off will be hired again for those positions.

Ultimately, OU still expects a "net reduction" of 94 administrative positions, meaning those administrators not being re-hired are effectively being laid off, Nellis wrote.

In other news, Nellis announced furloughs (temporary leave) for positions beginning on July 1 this year for all administrative, faculty and classified non-bargaining employees.

The amount of leave for each employee will be based on their salary; for example, somebody making more than $200,000 would be furloughed for 18 days (a wage reduction of about 6.9 percent), compared to 10 days for somebody making between $38,000 and $64,999 (a wage reduction of about 3.8 percent). Those furloughs will result in $13 million in savings.

Here is a chart of the furloughs shared by Nellis.

Furlough chart

A chart describing how furloughs will go at OU.

Nellis reiterated that he and OU Provost Elizabeth Sayrs will be taking a voluntary 15-percent pay cut. 

In addition, Nellis asked several senior administrators to take voluntary 10-percent salary cuts as well.

"I have asked members of President’s Council and Deans Council to take salary reductions of 10 percent or more for FY21," he said. "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."

We'll have more on this developing story as we learn more.

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