Ohio University announced Friday deep cuts to its employee budget, an action President M. Duane Nellis stated in a letter to the community will save the university $13 million in Fiscal Year 2021.
However, that made the news no easier. Friday afternoon, 53 instructional faculty were issued non-renewal notices; in addition, 74 other faculty are enrolling into a voluntary separation program that was offered to tenured faculty earlier this year. Beyond this, 149 administrators were notified that their positions are being abolished and all remaining faculty, administrators and classified non bargaining employees will be put onto a furlough schedule.
“I recognize the weight of the decisions I share this evening on the entirety of our community,” Nellis wrote. “Today was a difficult day for our colleagues who received notifications. Admittedly, it is an emotional day for us all. This simply is a very painful time during an unprecedented moment in our history as a community, a state, and a nation.”
The measures announced late Friday are in addition to the layoffs of 140 AFSCME Local 1699 bargaining unit employees who were notified on May 1. Those employees will no longer work for the university on June 1.
For the first time, direct cuts to the athletic department were announced. The university’s administrators had been criticized for how little it seemed athletics were to be cut. However, around a fifth of the department’s budget appears to have been cut to help address the budget issues. A closer look at how this has changed OU’s budget will be in an upcoming edition.
Top administrators will also be getting hit, Nellis said in his letter to the community.
“In addition to the salary reduction of 15 percent that Provost Sayrs and I will take, I have asked members of President’s Council and Deans Council to take salary reductions of 10 percent or more for FY21,” he wrote. “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.”
Nellis earns over $489,000 annually, and Sayrs’ position pays $378,750 annually. Last July, Nellis was awarded a $72,000 bonus, alongside a $7,000 raise, despite concerns of the lower enrollment rates and lower high school graduation numbers from across the state.
Nellis’ pay cut will amount to about $73,400 — leaving him with a salary of about $415,953.
There are two other employees with salaries higher than Nellis’s — Men’s Basketball Coach Jeffrey Boals, who reportedly earns about $581,000 annually, and head Football Coach Frank Solich, who brought home around $525,000 last year. There have been minimal cuts to the athletics budget, although academic colleges were asked to cut about $30 million through anticipated layoffs of around 300 faculty to be notified by May 15.
In a separate letter, Provost Sayrs noted that the state has confirmed the decrease of about $6.5 million from the state’s share of instruction subsidy that is to go through the end of June. Next year, the school will see a decrease of $35 million from its state subsidy.
“While we have received about $19.4M in federal funding through the CARES Act, $9.7M of that funding is emergency grant support that is being distributed directly to students across all our campuses who are experiencing COVID-related financial difficulties,” Sayrs wrote. “The economic impact of COVID-19 has intensified the financial pressures on Ohio University that existed prior to the pandemic. To ensure that our University and the communities that depend on us continue to thrive, we must grapple with difficult facts.”
Last week, led by members of AFSCME Local 1699 and the Ohio University chapter of the American Association of University Professors, about 150 vehicles-worth of concerned individuals gathered to let their voices be heard by administrators making budget decisions. The group has three specific demands: halt all layoffs for the duration of the pandemic; reinstate employees laid off during the pandemic; and cap all OU salaries at what Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine makes ($153,650) during the pandemic.
Another rally is planned for Saturday, May 16 from 10 a.m. to noon at the Athens Community Center, before plans to march on East State Street. The march is being planned by AFSCME Local 1699.