The University of Akron has changed policies in response to budget concerns, meaning that there will no longer be a $50 per credit hour fee for upper level courses and 213 positions (161 of which are currently filled) will be lost. The measures have been put in place to take care of an expected $60 million deficit over the next 3 years.
The layoffs do not include any academic faculty, but will include the staff of the performance space E. J. Thomas Hall.
According to Mark Urycki of NPR, arts classes will continue there, and community organizations will still be able to rent the space, but university-organized performances like the Broadway series will cease.
The university’s president, Scott Scarborough, said:
The guiding principle was to preserve the university’s academic core. No faculty members are on the layoff list. Our plan is not to refill the positions being eliminated at all levels of the organization. E.J. Thomas is a great performing space for our students in dance, theater, music. It’s a great performance space for community organizations who want to rent the facility at a cost they couldn’t fully afford if we hadn’t already made the investment into that wonderful facility. Again it will continue to be a venue for celebrations such as commencement and other university activities. It will still have a vibrant life.
Those who have been laid off and their dependents will have a four-year extension of UA benefits for taking classes as long as there is no interruption of attendance, writes Marilyn Miller of the Beacon Journal.
The Executive Director of E. J. Thomas, Dan Dahl, said that he returned to his office after the budget meeting to find that his staff had already been dismissed, writes Alexandra Samuels of USA Today. He said:
All supervisors were supposed to be notified. My supervisor is on vacation. How will there be a venue for tickets for any of the shows already scheduled? This is bad for the community, bad for the university and bad for business. It’s no way to operate. I don’t question change, but this is too fast, too much, too soon and it wasn’t at all handled respectfully. I’m very disappointed. There’s a lot of things that still have to be worked out. Is there a plan? There were several sold-out shows, will they still run? There are a lot more questions than answers.
The baseball program has been eliminated as well, and the dining program will be outsourced to save money.
Students, legislators, and the Ohio Department of Education all spoke out against the upper level course fee, saying that it was an underhanded tuition increase. Since state support recently increased by $4 million per year, they argued that it was unnecessary.
According to Karen Farkas of the Northeast Ohio Media Group, the school also is budgeting $840,000 to provide each of its 4,2o0 freshman student with a “success coach” from TrustNavigator LLC “to assist students in navigating the university and the collegiate experience.”
The school did not take any questions.