Attrition, layoffs to cut 60 positions

More job cuts in future can't be ruled out, administrators say

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The University will eliminate about 60 staff positions by July, as many as half of which may require layoffs.

“At least 30 to 35” of the cuts will eliminate currently vacant positions, but the rest will be made through layoffs, said Beppie Huidekoper, executive vice president for finance and administration.

The positions, which will be cut by the end of June, were identified by senior administrators and then reviewed and approved by President Ruth Simmons, Provost David Kertzer ’69 P’95 P’98 and the Corporation. Though all the employees who will be laid off this year have been identified, University officials interviewed by The Herald said they did not know when affected staffers would be told.

Administrators are “taking the time” to make sure they “have enough information” about severance pay and benefits before telling employees they will be laid off, Simmons said Tuesday.

But with the University needing to cut up to $90 million from projected spending over the next five years, this year’s job cuts may not be the last. The administrators interviewed this week said they could not rule out the possibility of more layoffs in coming years.

Brown is “not targeting certain areas or departments” for the current round of layoffs, Director of Labor Relations Joe Sarno ’91 said. Administrators offered few specifics on which jobs or departments will be affected. But Vice President for Facilities Management Stephen Maiorisi said he was “pretty sure” facilities jobs would be among those cut.

Facilities is looking at “what the appropriate staffing level would need to be” in its Planning, Design and Construction Office, now that the University is cutting back on capital projects, Maiorisi said. There are about 30 employees on that staff, he added.

None of the layoffs are of union personnel, according to Sarno. “If and when layoffs become necessary of union staff,” he said, they would be made in accordance with the University’s collective bargaining agreements.

The University has union contracts with some employees of Dining Services, Facilities, the Department of Public Safety and the libraries.

Simmons first said job cuts were on the way in an e-mail to the Brown community after the Corporation’s meeting last month. Since then, Sarno said, “We have received questions about particular positions that may or may not be cut.”

“People are anxious, understandably so,” he said.


Support after layoffs

All laid-off employees will be given severance packages, Sarno said, and administrators said they hope to find other positions within the University for as many terminated employees as possible.

The University has not decided what severance packages will include, he said, but added, “I think there is an inclination to enhance the existing policy.”

The University also hopes to provide transitional career counseling to employees for whom other positions cannot be found, Sarno said.

Vice President for Campus Life and Student Services Margaret Klawunn said “there would be arrangements to cover benefits for a period of time.”

Though any number of layoffs is “too much,” Sarno said, Brown is “fortunate” to not be doing mass layoffs. Some of Brown’s peer schools have already cut jobs. Dartmouth, for example, recently cut 60 staff members and gave 28 others reduced hours. Seventy more staff members accepted retirement offers.

Brown did not offer early retirement packages or buyouts to employees, Huidekoper said. She added in an e-mail to The Herald that “only a few” employees will be asked to work reduced hours, and that such a move “is still under discussion.”


Permanent vacancies

There are currently empty positions that will be eliminated throughout the University, including in the Office of the President, the Office of the Dean of the College and Human Resources and Facilities.

Campus life and student services, for example, underwent a large-scale reorganization March 1, distributing more duties to current employees instead of replacing some top-level positions, Klawunn said.

The office’s associate vice president position, which has been vacant since July, was the most senior of several eliminated. The position’s responsibilities, which included overseeing the Offices of Student Life and Residential Life, were distributed to other administrators, several of whom received promotions to reflect their expanded duties.

Finding ways to “take somebody who’s in another position that isn’t needed as much and move them over” to a more urgent vacant position has “helped a lot,” Huidekoper said.

Though a hiring freeze for all staff and administrators has been in place since November, a new Vacancy Review Committee of top administrators reviews requests for hires and approves those it deems absolutely necessary. All requests from public safety, as well as positions having to do with student health, have been approved, Huidekoper said. Hiring requests for grant-supported research have also been approved, she said.

Among other hires that have been approved are a second-shift custodian for Pembroke campus residence halls and a temporary administrative assistant for the Sarah Doyle Women’s Center.


Future cuts

Though Simmons said the University is currently focusing on the “part of it that we need to do by next academic year,” millions of dollars in savings will be needed to achieve a balanced budget by 2014. “We don’t want to move precipitously,” she said, adding that administrators and committees “ought to take the time” to deliberate decisions about position and expenditure cuts.

Many of those decisions will be made by existing committees, she said. Other committees may be newly created and some current ones will take on new student and staff representatives.

Simmons told The Herald after a faculty meeting on Tuesday that she had just sent out invitations to potential members of a new committee, though she declined to give further details because she had yet to hear how the invitations had been received.

“Since we’ve essentially identified the cuts for this year, we have the time to set the apparatus in place” to determine savings for future years, she said. “When you have anything this widespread, you have to augment your structure.”

The University anticipates having to eliminate more positions in the future, which Huidekoper said it hopes to “do as much as possible” through reorganization and attrition. But “as it turns out,” she said, “not a lot of people are leaving right now.”

“People are holding onto their jobs,” she said.

The Organizational Review Committee, which was created in November to find ways to cut expenditures, will continue to search for “redundancies” and ways to run the University more efficiently, Sarno said. The committee is made up of faculty members, staff and administrators.