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WKSU, our public radio partners in Ohio and across the region and NPR are all continuing to work on stories on the latest developments with the coronavirus and COVID-19 so that we can keep you informed.

University of Akron Trustees Approve Mass Faculty Layoff

University of Akron
The University of Akron
Facing an estimated $65 million shortfall, the University of Akron expects to save $16.4 million through a layoff of 178 employees.

The University of Akron Board of Trustees on Wednesday unanimously approved a measure to reduce 178 union and nonunion faculty and staff positions.

Facing an estimated $65 million shortfall, the university expects to save $16.4 million through the mass layoff, which will begin in two weeks.

University President Gary Miller told trustees the cuts are needed to sustain the university in the future.

“The recent resurgence of COVID-19 cases in Ohio has created further uncertainty as to the challenges the university will face in the upcoming academic year,” he said.

Trustees also approved extending current contracts with the faculty union and two others that call for wage cuts ranging from just under 1 percent to 4 percent. 

“I’m grateful for these collective sacrifices made by our hardworking employees," Miller said. "However, as I’ve shared with this board and the university community in the in the past, personnel costs make up approximately 60 percent of the university’s total budget. And many of the remaining budget items are fixed costs that cannot be reduced.”  

In the layoffs, 96 union faculty and 82 nonunion faculty, staff and contract workers, regardless of tenure or rank, will be let go.

The faculty union pushed back against layoffs for months, arguing that a research university requires a strong teaching staff. It called instead for a reduction in money spent on athletics.

The president of the faculty union at the University of Akron is disappointed in the administration’s decision to implement the layoffs. Pam Schulze said the university was determined to cut faculty rather than reducing costs in other areas not central to its mission, such as athletics. She said unlike other universities, these cuts were made without regard to rank, seniority or tenure. She’d like to see administrators make sacrifices as significant.

Union president Pam Schulze thinks top administrators at the University of Akron have not sacrificed as much as faculty.

“Frankly, if you’re gonna cut 20 percent of the faculty and you now have smaller academic programs, fewer academic employees to manage, it seems to me the people who do the management ought to also accept a 20 percent cut in pay," Schulze said. "And it ought to be permanent, just like the position cuts are.”

She said top administrators took a voluntary 10 percent pay cut for just one year.

The university and union staff members entered into a collective agreement regarding wage reductions and other conditions of the restructuring. Employees were offered an opportunity to retire before Jan. 1, 2021, as long as the retirement was signed before June 30. The Memorandum of Understanding and a list of retiring workers is below.


Jennifer Conn joined WKSU in February 2019 as Akron reporter.
Abigail Bottar covers Akron, Canton, Kent and the surrounding areas for Ideastream Public Media.