U adjusts to layoff of 500 employees

JBy Jake Weyer Jo Anne Wetherell-Moriarty has a husband and two children. She also has a job as an information technology professional in the human ecology department – at least until the end of August.

Moriarty, who has worked at the University for almost 15 years, is one of almost 500 University employees who have received layoff or nonrenewal notices since Jan. 1, according to a report from the University’s human resources department.

“It’s stressful to see people you’re working with leave and wonder what your future is,” Moriarty said.

Some college and administrative officials said they are beginning to feel the effects of the nonrenewed and laid-off employees’ absence in the form of bigger workloads.

Employees throughout the University, including faculty, professional and administrative, civil service and others, have received layoff notices.

Nonrenewals apply to academic and administrative employees whose contracts are renewed annually. Layoffs apply to bargaining staff – union-represented and civil service workers.

Each department deals with budget cuts differently, depending on the size of the cut and the department’s priorities, administration officials said.

During the past two years, the Medical School’s budget was reduced by approximately $5.5 million, said Charles Moldow, a Medical School associate dean.

The school has changed benefits packages, reduced expenses, given fewer raises and used layoffs to cut costs, Moldow said.

The Medical School chose not to raise tuition this year, so that money had to be made up elsewhere, said Frank Cerra, Academic Health Center senior vice president. Sixty employees were laid off or nonrenewed in the Medical School this year, which was more than usual, he said.

Moldow said extra layoffs were just one part of the solution.

“Even if (the laid-off employees) each made $80,000, that still would barely cover it,” Moldow said.

Cerra said the effect of those layoffs will not be great because employees were cut from units that can manage without them.

Moldow disagreed.

“The total amount of work hasn’t gone away,” Moldow said. “The remaining people are picking up the difference.”

University Services, which includes Facilities Management, has reduced its staff by at least 97 employees since the beginning of the year.

Since the start of the year, Facilities Management – which oversees maintenance, repair and construction of University property – reduced the number of operations supervisors from 47 to 28, according to the University Services Office of Human Resources.

Beverly Bierwerth, a former Facilities Management operations supervisor who was laid off in July after 23 years at the University, said remaining supervisors are spread too thin.

“You can’t check on 30 employees every night,” said Bierwerth, who added that the quality of maintenance and repair could deteriorate.

Students’ education could also be affected, Institute of Technology Dean Ted Davis said.

“There is no way you can have that kind of reduction in people power without possibly lowering the quality of education,” Davis said.

He said his institute will have fewer resources for teaching assistants and bigger classes due to layoffs and money crunching.

“It would be very difficult to get more students in a classroom,” said Kisha Delain, an astronomy graduate student. “It would certainly be more difficult to ask teaching assistants questions. The more students you have, the less individual attention you can give them.”

The difficulties might not be limited to the classroom. Moriarty said this is a difficult time for everyone.

“There’s a lot of emotion attached,” she said. “All things point towards the work environment getting tougher for people who still work at the ‘U.’ “

Jake Weyer reports on faculty and staff issues and welcomes comments at [email protected]