Faculty members speak up in support of their laid-off colleagues

A letter addressed to President Judy Olian and her staff demonstrated concerns regarding the layoffs and budget cuts

Emily Flamme, News Editor

Nearly 200 faculty, staff and students at Quinnipiac University signed a letter addressed to President Judy Olian and her staff to show support for the 38 employees who were laid off due to budget cuts. 

We write to state our strong support for the ‘approximately thirty-eight’ faculty and staff members whom you laid off this week,” the letter stated. “While this letter largely speaks to the impact of the faculty layoffs, we stand in solidarity with our laid-off staff colleagues as well. We ask for a transparent report of your financial calculations and decision-making process and the immediate reinstatement of all those affected.”

The letter continued by outlining five issues related to the budget changes. The first was the lack of transparency in the decision-making. As an example, the letter refers to the purchasing of “Zoom carts,” a mobile stand that has a large screen for displaying notes while streaming a lecture, without revealing the cost or considering faculty input. 

“There may be good reasons behind some of your decisions, but since we were not privy to them, they seem inequitable and rash,” the letter stated. “Faculty are at the heart of the pedagogical mission of this university; as vital stakeholders, we should have a voice in these decisions.”

The next concern raised was the stress that the layoffs place on current faculty. Now that departments are shorthanded, faculty members will have to take on more work for the same or a smaller salary.  

“The administration has cut a very large number of adjunct faculty — they haven’t told us how many — and at least 11 full-time faculty, many courses have been cut altogether, and now the professors who remain will teach more classes and larger class sizes while trying to adapt our teaching to fit the new ‘Q-Flex’ protocol,” said Kimberly O’Neill, associate professor of English. 

Due to the increased workload professors will have, other aspects of academia will suffer. Professors will have less time to help students outside of class, and there will be a decrease in resources and research time. 

“These cuts will make it much more difficult for us to teach strong classes and develop meaningful relationships with our students, which is what brings students to Quinnipiac in the first place,” O’Neill said. 

The layoffs took place without consulting constituent faculty members in their respective department or program, which violates the ruling in the Supreme Court case, NLRB v. Yeshiva University. The decision in that case led to the clarification that professors are excluded from collective bargaining rights since they hold a managerial role. 

Because of that role, faculty members are expected to be consulted about budgetary matters within their academic realm. 

“Students, faculty and staff should have a meaningful say in the decisions that affect them,” O’Neill said. “Our administration tends to inform us after decisions have been made. Not only do they fail to keep us updated, we all lose when faculty are not given the chance to offer our expertise and creativity to solve problems our community faces.”

Hillary Haldane, director of general education and professor of anthropology, has experience working in non-governmental organizations. At her previous job, she had full access to the budgets. As a result, she believes financial transparency is better for the institution. 

I’ve seen how it works to build trust and better working relationships, as well as leads to better decisions for the institution,” Haldane said. 

In recent years, Quinnipiac has focused on diversifying the faculty, so another concern the letter highlighted was how the layoffs disproportionately affect underrepresented groups due to the “last hired/first fired” approach. 

“These abrupt lay-offs render our faculty less diverse than before and send our students the clear message that we do not prioritize ‘inclusive excellence,’” the letter stated. 

O’Neill said the layoffs were handled differently between schools which has caused confusion and worry about future decisions. 

The lack of clarity and the discrepancies in the process raise concerns about fairness, add to the confusion and anxiety around the other decisions that are being made, and point to mismanagement,” O’Neill said.  

The Management Committee, the staff that works with Olian on issues such as the budget, sent an email to everyone who signed the letter in response to the letter’s main point of the lack of communication about university decisions.

“Going forward, we will continue our open communication between faculty and the administration, and we welcome your suggestions in areas that can be improved,” the Management Committee said in the email. “We strongly encourage faculty leadership’s role in serving as a channel to disseminate information more broadly among all faculty. We also propose re-invigorating the Senate Finance and Future Plans Committee as a forum for regular exchange of budget and strategic information.” 

Haldane received the response from the Management Committee, but felt it was lacking since it didn’t address all of the points of the letter. 

“However, I do appreciate that they took the time to respond,” Haldane said. “I also hope we can have a productive working relationship between the managerial employees of the university and the faculty going forward.”