June 11, 2008

The costs of layoffs

It looks like faculty at USF are "getting off" lightly in terms of layoffs by almost any measure. I have some questions remaining about the choices available to my institution, but the position of faculty here is better than USF staff and better than those who work in other sectors hit hard by the recession. I know of one layoff notice to an instructor and another one to a professional researcher employee, and I expect to receive copies of a few others, mostly to professional employees who are in the bargaining unit. If you'll accept my apologies for the use of academic jargon to describe institutional behavior, this sucks. But it's still better than what Florida university administrators have pondered over the past few months.

Though very few faculty will receive layoff notices, there are real costs to everyone for staff layoffs, and we are starting to see those consequences this week. For the last few weeks, both faculty and staff have been walking around on eggshells, wondering who would receive layoff notices. Now we know: my guess is that more than half of those who will receive layoff notices this summer have been told, though we still may have some trickling in for a week or more. Anyone faculty member who's teaching and drops by the department this week will know which staff members are being laid off.

I know staff who have received notices, and if you aren't concerned about your coworkers' personal welfare, you're pretty low on the scale of human decency. These include people with disabilities, widows, single parents with children, those who have worked at USF for decades and have a solid job record. They have fewer resources than professionals and faculty, and they're being laid off in the worst economy in almost two decades, with gas prices heading sky-high. If you know someone who's laid off in your department and you don't have your productivity hit from several things (helping someone polish a resume, worrying about them, etc.), you need some help with your soul.

Then there are the long-term consequences of laying off staff. There will be longer wait times for equipment repair, more mold in buildings because leaks take longer to be fixed, students who are a little more likely to be alienated because they're less likely to see a human being when coming in for an appointment, stuff that takes longer to get done because there's a growing queue of logistical tasks for fewer people, and a general sense that the university is being dragged backwards.

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Posted in The academic life on June 11, 2008 11:00 AM |