NAU president defends cuts because of budget concerns
FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — Fewer than 100 positions at Northern Arizona University would be laid off in response to budget concerns and there would be no reductions in tenured or tenure-track faculty, the university president said.
President Rita Cheng released a statement responding to a protest earlier in the week where more than 70 demonstrators gathered outside Flagstaff City Hall on Wednesday to protest the layoffs, instead calling for administrators to implement furloughs or pay cuts, the Arizona Daily Sun reported.
NAU is approaching a fiscal year with an expected $100 million or more in lost enrollment revenue.
Cheng said she respects protesters’ “right to air their issues publicly” but explained the university is facing unusual times. “Virtually all public universities across the country have implemented a variety of measures to reduce their costs, and many of them have taken steps that are far more drastic than ours.”
Cheng told staff last Friday that she and her executive team would be taking 10% pay cuts for the year and contracts would still be issued to “approximately 95% of our total instructional faculty for fall 2020.”
Protesters have argued there has been inconsistent messaging surrounding how much national enrollment trends and the coronavirus pandemic are contributing to individual department cuts.
Concerns were also raised about new semester-long contracts for non-tenure-track faculty and the sudden loss of benefits like health insurance. Faculty who lost their positions were told these benefits would last through May 31.
“I found out on Tuesday that I would have no health insurance at the end of the week, which is gutting, on top of the fact that I just lost my job,” said Lisa Thompson, a former geology lecturer whose classes for next year were already full.
Thompson said even if the position were reinstated, she would be ineligible for her own job now that a doctorate is required. She also said she was not able to receive documentation stating the reason for her loss of employment.
Other protesters, including current employees, have raised concerns that layoffs have affected liberal studies departments more than other technical programs such as engineering and accounting.
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