Tag Archives: budget crisis

A Little News

Dr. Edwards hosted another video-chat open forum today. Although I have three pages of handwritten notes, here are the high points (low points? haha):

  • We’re probably not going to be working back on campus until July, if not August.
  • WSU filed the paperwork for that Shared Work Ohio thing, which is a special kind of unemployment service setup specifically for this crisis – and allegedly you can still claim it even if you volunteer to reduce your hours, which they (WSU) are hoping people will. They’re working on some written communications about this.
  • They are looking at EVERYTHING when thinking about where they might be able to cut. “Everything’s on the table,” she said.
  • Apparently, some of the other universities in the state were hoping that we’d go first with announcing our cuts, so they could basically use us as a shield for the media fallout – a sacrificial lamb to the press. Oh sure, let Wright State step out in front of the bus first; they’re used to it. They probably don’t even feel it anymore. To this, Dr. Edwards essentially said NO – because a number of other Ohio schools have already made their announcements and gone on the media chopping block – U. Dayton, U. Akron, Kent State, Ohio U., Miami U. – and we’re still taking our time, working things out (together, as she says).
  • And in that same vein, one of her closing encouragements: “If anyone can turn this place around, we can.”

Guys, I can’t even fucking cry about hardly anything right now (AND I SHOULD BE) – it’s so weird – but she almost brought me to tears twice today.

Can I just say how lucky we are to have a university president who’s so inspirational, compassionate, charismatic, and forthcoming?

**********

In another piece of my personal puzzle, we got another survey from our childcare provider, regarding their plan to hopefully reopen on June 1 (pending the governor’s announcement/approval/whatever) — and they finally gave us some FEE NUMBERS to work with. I knew it was going up; it was actually going to go up a little already even before the COVID thing happened. They hadn’t raised rates in years, apparently, and it was time. Fine, I get it, inflation and all that. They had not told us what those new rates were going to be. And now, it looks like they’ve probably had to raise them even a bit more, to cover smaller ratios of teacher-to-student, PPE, extra cleaning supplies, etc. Anyway.

The new monthly rate for Jack’s age group is $1,230.00 per month. That’s about $200 more than we were paying before. And our “old” rate included a $100 discount (for what, I forget), and they are not going to be applying any discounts initially, they said. So it will be the full $1,230.

OOF.

Well, it’s nice to at least have that number, finally, to plug into the mental “spreadsheet” of decision-making. (Hopefully soon I will have “the number” as to how much income I myself can expect to earn for the near/foreseeable future.)

The “mental spreadsheet” might have to be an ACTUAL spreadsheet at some point. I actually have one for calculating how much Emergency Fund we’d need in various scenarios – like if one or the other of us lost our job or if — GOD FORBID — we both did at the same time: how much we’d need for 1 month, 3 months, 6 months, 12 months, etc. Anyway, if the shit really hits the fan, some version of that sheet is going to get copy/pasted into a new “What the Hell Should We Do” spreadsheet.

But again, on the bright side, it will be nice to have all the damn pieces of the puzzle eventually. Right now it’s like playing a card game where half the deck is missing, and you don’t know which half. And I already hate card games.

In the meantime, here’s the kind of thing I’m dealing with while I’m watching Dr. Edwards’ video chats — and trying to do anything else (these pics are actually from Friday’s chat):

Cat wants to watch Dr. Edwards video-chat also, May 8, 2020

Cat wants to watch Dr. Edwards video-chat also, May 8, 2020

Toddler wants to watch cartoons in same room and also press all the buttons on the printer, during Dr. Edwards' video chat, May 8, 2020

Toddler wants to watch cartoons in same room and also press all the buttons on the printer, during Dr. Edwards’ video chat, May 8, 2020

God help us all.

OH! And there’s a GroundWorkOhio petition to Congress for childcare relief. Another working archivist mom sent it to me today, and you should all go do it! It just takes a minute.

Bit ‘o News

Another cell phone post, sorry.

We got a little bit of news from the head of our library today. I’m not really at liberty to discuss the details, but it was good to find out the status of things and what’s going on. Some decisions that need to be made will be made in the next couple of days, but it sounds like it could be longer than that before we actually hear how it affects each one of us individually.

Still no answers from Governor DeWine about childcare in today’s press conference. He’s not doing a conference tomorrow, but Dr. Acton mentioned that they will have something to say about it hopefully in the next couple of days, so hopefully that means Thursday. Fingers crossed.

University president Sue Edwards is having another one of her video chats tomorrow. I really enjoy those, even if a lot of what gets talked about is not good news in these times. I appreciate her candor and straightforwardness. And it’s pretty cool to have that instant face-to-face connection straight to the top. I even ask a question occasionally! But mostly I just listen to her answers to what other people ask. And once in a while, I post a link (in the group chat) to a trustworthy source of information about something that someone else has asked, because librarian.

No news today

Writing via voice recognition on my phone again, apologize in advance for any typos.

Well, Governor DeWine reneged on his promise to announce something about daycares today. Boooooo.

On the bright side, we can continue to live in the happy world of “maybe it will reopen for June 1st”! I probably shouldn’t hold my breath though.

I didn’t get any news today about the actual cuts the university plans to make to deal with the budget shortfall from now through June 30th, either.

But again on the bright side, I still have a full-time, paying job for the time being. Huzzah!

The university did make an announcement over the weekend that the campus would remain “essential personnel only” through the end of the governor’s current stay-at-home recommendation which expires on May 29th so I guess I’m staying home at least until then.

The same university announcement also stated that face masks would be required for everyone on campus (employees, students, visitors, etc.) for the foreseeable future. I consider this good news also. The masks are a good idea, and I was nervous when DeWine backpedaled on his mask order last week (was that last week? I’ve lost all sense of time) saying it was up to the individual businesses.

That’s all I’ve got for today. I’m off to try reading my book — which I just read in an article today is difficult for all of us right now because our brains are trying to solve and unsolvable problem. Good to know it’s not just me.

Is it RIF’ing yet?

Wright State’s President Edwards had another open forum via video-chat again this morning. She indicated that “reductions in force” are likely, with an announcement coming early next week. She specifically said they are not looking at “furloughs,” but it also sounded like the “reduction in force” would include some reductions in people’s hours that would hopefully only be temporary (to cover the $3-point-something million budget shortfall WSU has between now and June 30).

But…temporary…. Isn’t that…what a furlough is?

(I’ve been furloughed before, when I worked at Dayton Metro Library in the time after the housing market crash. We all worked 1 less day per pay period for a while, and our paychecks were reduced accordingly for that temporary period of time.)

I found this useful web page – What is the difference between a furlough, a layoff and a reduction in force? – from the Society of Human Resource Management. It seems to indicate that a true “reduction in force” is meant to be permanent.

But these are weird times. And I’m not criticizing the university president; she’s got a lot going on. And she plainly admitted she’s not an HR expert. Hagfish expert? Yes. HR expert, no. Haha.

So I’ll just…hold my breath and wait for that email to come out I guess.

In another twist of…whatever (irony? or perhaps nothing- we’ll wait and see), Governor DeWine promises us some sort of announcement about childcare in Monday’s press conference. I’m going to be super-pissed if this announcement is just “well, we’re still not sure, better wait a bit more.” Even if it’s something shitty like “we’re not opening until FOREVER, but here’s the date of FOREVER,” at least having a date will be helpful to know.

And again, I know, EVERYTHING IS WEIRD and changing every day. But it’s still…miserable…for working parents to keep working when there’s nobody available to take care of their child(ren), whether they are working from home or being asked to go (physically) back to work. Working from home with kid(s) is terrible. But I literally do not see how things are supposed to “work” if more and more people have to go (physically) back to their jobs but have no childcare options.

Not everybody has a retired grandma nearby. And even if they do, we’re all supposed to be staying AWAY from each other. And it’s even worse if the workers are going out every day into “public” and then coming back with whatever new germs (possibly COVID-19) for grandma.

So, yeah.

Current status:

  • Waiting to find if we’ll be getting childcare back anytime soon.
  • Wondering whether I’ll even need it when we do.
  • Hoping we can still afford it, if my pay goes down, because we already know that the price of our daycare is going up.

Is it raining yet?

For the record I’m writing this while lying in bed using the voice recognition on my phone through the WordPress app so if capitalization and punctuation is not great initially sorry about that. I’m feeling kind of weird this evening and I just want to lay here but I also want to write this so here we are.

The governor announced today that he’s cutting 110 million dollars out of Ohio’s higher education budget for this year: like the year we’re still in, the year that doesn’t end until June 30th. So that’s going to be super fun. he said he’s not willing to dip into the state’s quote unquote rainy day fund yet to cover the deficit for the next two months t. I’m not saying he should or he shouldn’t; I’m just saying what he said. (Purely from a literal, meteorological standpoint though it was definitely raining in Springfield today.)

There was another online open forum with President Edwards today at 2:00, which is the same time as the governor’s press conference. Someone in the chat mentioned the announcement and we got to see Dr Edwards’ reaction live. I don’t recall anything remarkable about her reaction, but it was interesting that we got to see her learn the news. No word yet about what Wright State’s share of that $110 million dollars is, but I’m sure we’ll find out soon.

The next board meeting is May 22nd and I think they were planning to have a draft financial plan/budget for the new fiscal year to talk about at that meeting. But I would think they would need / want to meet a lot sooner than that to figure out the money situation for the next two months.

I was watching another training video tonight from the society of American archivists, and it occurred to me that it’s kind of ironic, or one of those other literary terms, that here I am boning up on professional development and who the hell knows if I’ll even have a job in a week or two?

** EDIT 5/6/2020: Wright State’s share of the $110 million is $3.2 million. Wright State Guardian newspaper reports more, including that this wasn’t a surprise at all? Well, it still ain’t good.

So It Begins: Boom, Boom, Boom

It’s happening.

“So it begins” gif (Theoden from Lord of the Rings).

We’ve known for a while that things weren’t going to look good for university budgets and state funding.

We’ve known since last week some actual numbers (e.g., 20% cuts) to put with our otherwise fairly abstract budget-related dread.

At Wright State, we got an email last week from President Edwards with a little bit of what’s coming (or already happened) and a taste of what else to watch for.

And now, as we wait to hear what exactly will be the fallout at WSU, the articles are starting to roll out about what some other Ohio universities are planning to do (or already doing) about their budget reductions.

University of Dayton announced that they are furloughing about 450 people and laying off 60, among other measures. (I’m assuming this is staff, not faculty, because unions. It’s always the staff. Article says they employ about 1000 faculty and about 2175 staff, so these cuts are about 16% of total employees and I would guess a higher percentage than that from the pool of “staff.”)

Kent State University announced that they “will temporarily reduce salaries for employees who make more than $38,000 and who are not represented by a union” (soooo, staff, again, I’m assuming?). They are doing the salary reductions in a tiered structure, so those who make more have a higher percentage salary cut.

If, hypothetically, Wright State were to do the same using the same scale, I’d be in the 2% salary cut bracket, which would be about $1,000/year. Also note, WSU hasn’t been giving any cost-of-living increases for a few years now, and let’s not even talk about inflation. (Oh, and in case you were wondering, I am not considered faculty, am not tenured, or tenure-track, and am not in any union nor is there a union that I am eligible to be in. I know at some universities, archivists have faculty status or tenure or whatever, but that is not the case at WSU. On the bright side, I also don’t have to “publish or perish.” Just perish, haha.)

This more general article has info about University of Akron, Kent State, and also Urbana University, which announced last week that it is closing entirely.

Here’s a striking quote from the “more general article” above:

Bruce Johnson, the president of the Inter-University Council of Ohio, an association of the state’s public universities, estimated Ohio’s 14 public universities will lose between $290 to $310 million from March to July. That includes about $171 million in refunds to students, mostly from room and board costs. Johnson added every public university is looking to trim budgets between 5 and 25%.

That explains what President Edwards meant by “the IUC” when she kept mentioning it in yesterday’s video-conference open forum. (The amount of stuff I probably don’t know about how higher education actually works — or, doesn’t work, sometimes, haha — is probably appalling.)

Yes, yesterday afternoon, I was proverbially “double-fisting” (and literally double-listening) on public informational broadcasts — listening to Q&A with our university president Dr. Edwards on my Chromebook with an earbud (sometimes two), while also trying to listen to the tail-end of the Q&A portion of Gov. DeWine’s press conference on the TV across the room.

Dr. Edwards won, most of the time, because there really is no such thing as multi-tasking, and the “speech” part of the governor’s production was over. He had already said his bit about what businesses/industries can open up starting in early May—-and neither higher education nor libraries were explicitly mentioned (whether to be allowed or disallowed in any of what he said).

So, of course the first question to Dr. Edwards in her session — which, I say proudly, came from one of my fellow library staff members (out of the 170+ people who ultimately logged on to the video-chat), to paraphrase (because these things are blessedly not recorded): So, how does the governor’s announcement today about things reopening affect us (WSU and specifically the library)?

Dr. Edwards said (essentially): “I don’t know yet.” (And I think she mentioned the IUC.)

Another question early on was about the university’s budget, had anything been decided yet, any new details?

Dr. Edwards said (again, paraphrase): No, we’re still working on it.

As much as I know that we all want to know these things — and she knows we want to know — and I’m sure SHE wants to know — I am absolutely not criticizing these responses. Quite the opposite: I can definitely respect someone who will just tell me when they don’t know the answer to my question. Nobody wants to be bull-shitted, especially not right now.

So we’ll wait. We’ll just wait.

The university Board of Trustees has some meetings at the end of this week: a “Committee Day” on Thursday and an Executive Session and a Public Session on Friday. I see a LOT of financially oriented documents on the Committee Day page, so…maybe we’ll hear something shortly after these meetings?

Not that I’m super excited to get what I’m certain will be bad news for at least somebody (probably many somebodies, probably including me). But it’s good to know what you’re dealing with, you know? The suspense is killer.

You run over a million different scenarios in your head, and you start trying to fashion your contingency plans, and you waste a lot of energy on “what if’s.” And it’s like, Try to calm down and don’t start freaking out until you know something. But then it’s like, I do know something! I know something bad is coming! …I just don’t know what yet.

“Loosen your corset, have a drink.” (Woody Harrelson as Haymitch Abernathy in Hunger Games)

BTW, I don’t really drink, but I’ve definitely thought about it lately!

Also, it is disturbing how many Hunger Games references, memes, and gifs I have seen used in relation to this whole Coronavirus/COVID-19 thing — and they are SPOT ON — and, you know, that was a pretty F’d up society. (Maybe I should write a whole post just with Hunger Games gifs…hmm.)

On that note, let’s get off this train…after just the one last explanation of the second part of my title:

As I watch these universities “dropping like flies,” or more like, dropping the bomb(s) on their communities about what is going to happen next to make up for the budget shortfalls— it reminded me of a scene from a movie I’ve seen many times: Under the Tuscan Sun (2003) (loved the movie, hated the book). So  (in the movie) this American lady buys an old farmhouse in Italy on a whim, and she hires local contractors to help her fix it up. So one of the guys is trying to convey to her (in Italian, which she doesn’t really speak much of- and he doesn’t know English) that if they take this particular wall out, the whole place is gonna come crashing down. And, making a sort of dropping/banging gesture with his hands, he exclaims, “Boom! Boom! Boom!”

And that’s what things feel like right now. That’s all the shoes dropping (not just the “other shoe”).

BOOM. BOOM. BOOM.

So, yeah.

Good luck, everybody!

May the odds be ever in your favor!

Interruption Redux

So, recounting the saga of Wright State in the 2010’s and finding all the links for those (citations needed) on the previous entry…took longer than I expected, and I was out of steam (midnight snack time!) by the time I finally got to the end part with Dr. Edwards’ email.

I had thoughts. (Obviously.) A lot of thoughts. (Of course, it’s me.) So here are some snippets I’ve clipped out of Dr. Edwards email (marked by boldface and italics) and then some of my relevant thoughts (ok mostly worries).

(Note that I will be reprinting the majority of the email but not the entirety; for entirety see previous entry. I will maintain the original order of the statements, however.)

**********

Wright State has been through a number of tough years and resilience remains the key to our success.

We get knocked down, but we get up again!
(Welcome to 1997, thanks, Chumbawumba.)
Lead with a joke, they said. It’ll be great, they said. –crickets– OK, now for the anxious and/or ugly.

In the short term, the State of Ohio has informed us to plan for a significant reduction in what is remaining of this year’s State Share of Instruction. In addition, refunds and/or credits due to students exceed $3 million and summer enrollment has been negatively impacted, resulting in a decrease of 17 percent.

Earlier this month, the university developed and announced a plan for refunds to students for certain fees and services they are not getting because they had to move off-campus mid-semester — mainly housing, meal plans, and parking permits and pro-rated to the time that students were required to stop physically coming to class or stop living on campus. I was extremely impressed with the thoroughness and (in my opinion) fairness of the procedures decided upon (which are detailed in that linked article above). Students totally deserve to be getting reimbursed for goods and services they are not getting. But, OUCH, $3 million in refunds.

And OUCH, 17% drop in summer enrollment. I’m not sure if that’s a drop in what was “projected” or an actual, literal “drop” (like people dropping courses they already enrolled for?), but…declining enrollment is never good.

We’ve already taken and informed you of a number of steps to reduce expenses in the short term by instituting a hiring freeze on all non-approved external hires and significantly curbing expenditures in numerous areas.

Yeah…so remember that bit where I said my supervisor Dawne is retiring soon? We were all so glad when the Hiring Board approved re-filling the position and the job posting went up online the first week of March. The position job posting can still technically be found on the university’s jobs web site, but now it has a big ugly “POSTPONED” with it. BIG SAD FACE. 😦

Today I am announcing the following additional measures that are being put in place:
• University leadership (President, Provost, Vice Presidents, Vice Provosts, and Deans) has voluntarily agreed to take a 20 percent reduction in salary.

Wow to the university leadership taking a 20% pay cut. I wonder how truly “voluntary” it all was, not because I have bad things to say about these folks. (I couldn’t even name most of them for you.) But that’s a pretty hefty pay cut, so I kind of wonder if a bit of healthy peer pressure was involved to get all of them to agree to it “voluntarily.” Or maybe they all totally did; no idea. I’m just spitballin’ here.

Omigod…. Okay, so I just (literally just this minute mid-writing-this-entry) looked up the names of some of our deans. (I know, I’m terrible. I should probably know more of these folks’ names.) And then I looked them up on the Buckeye Institute web site, where you can get salary information for a variety of public employees, including search salaries for employees of Ohio’s public universities (with available data currently for 2011-2018):

  • Brian Rigling, Dean of the College of Engineering: $219,000 in 2018. (20% = $43,800)
  • Linda Caron, Dean of the College of Liberal Arts: $186,000 in 2018. (20% = $37,200)

Holy shit.

(Also, while I’m in this database, I looked up everyone over $100k and then sorted the list highest to lowest. And…why the fuck is our basketball coach the top-paid employee, at $546,000? And he still makes over $500k as of this Feb. 2020 article from Dayton Daily News. You know what? I don’t want any explanation of “why” because it will just piss me off. Because sports worship. I digress…)

And I can tell you, the Buckeye Institute database appears to contain accurate and reliable data, because I looked up myself, and my numbers appear accurate to the best of my recollection. (Mom, don’t panic when you see the massive drop in my salary for the year 2018 – remember, I had that medical thing, and I took it unpaid; I didn’t get demoted!)

Anyway, back to the list of “additional measures”…

• Hold on all non-critical university-funded capital projects.

Shit, shit, SHIT.

I assume that puts the kibosh on our archives building project. We were pretty close to starting to really seriously think about probably starting to actually swing the first proverbial hammer on the remodeling project to transform the space into an archive.

The building is at 2455 Presidential Drive, the old Wright-Patt Credit Union headquarters, which is just on the other side of Col. Glenn Highway from main campus. The university already owns it (for several years now) and has some offices in parts of it. They currently use “our” part, which is just a big open space right now, for big events – most notably televised Board meetings and sometimes banquets.

We had already cooled off on fundraising for it when COVID-19 ramped up. More important things going on, you know? We know. It’s hard to ask folks to donate money for a project like ours at the same time that food banks even more desperately need food and folks are suddenly becoming unemployed left and right. There are more important human-life-sustaining services that need donations right at this moment. We get it.

But it still doesn’t make it easy to swallow having the brakes thrown on this project (again). As the collections manager, one of my duties is to keep track of what’s where and how much “where” we have left. And let me tell you, there’s not a lot. I’m tracking it down to 0.25 linear-foot increments. We are running out of space, by the day, it seems like. (OK not THIS day or the last 35 or so because I can’t exactly accept new boxes while working from home, but…) Before we left, I was in the process of shifting (again): any shelf containing multiple 1-Hollinger-box accessions or collections was on the list to potentially be moved elsewhere, to nooks and crannies that are only big enough for 1 Hollinger box (the little gray boxes- about 0.5 linear foot), to open up spaces large enough for record center boxes (the big white boxes – 1 linear foot). accessions that consisted of single Hollinger boxes (about 0.5 linear foot) into 0.5-foot spaces. Sorry, that’s a lot of shop talk that won’t make much sense to non-archivists, maybe, but suffice it to say, EVERY DAY I’M SHUFFLIN’. And it’s exhausting (both mentally and physically). And inefficient.

Between the likelihood of not being able to replace Dawne (and thus dropping us to 4 archivists) and the likelihood of putting a halt on the new building project, I almost cried when I read this email. I really did. I hadn’t cried about anything yet — maybe I’m numb, maybe I’m broken, maybe I’m dead inside, I don’t know — but that was the closest I had come thus far. (I actually did shed a few tears today, hence the use of past perfect tense, but that’s a different story altogether.)

• Freeze on all new contractual agreements for goods and services.
• Elimination of all discretionary non-compensation spending.
• Moving campus facilities into a low energy usage mode where possible.
• Freezing all university-issued ProCards.

Welp.
There goes buying stuff.
Not that we were buying tons of stuff as it was.
But it was nice to have the option.

To date, Wright State has been committed to maintaining all personnel and positions. The State of Ohio has indicated they will release a plan addressing the return to work for Ohio businesses this week. We will review the plan and its impact on university operations in order to determine future staffing plans, which may include reductions in force.

Reductions in force. The University Librarian (head of the university libraries), as well as our supervisors, have asked if anybody is interested in reducing their hours.

Hours? Yes.
Pay? No.
Haha. Sorry, I couldn’t resist.
I know it’s not a laughing matter, but…laughing helps us keep from crying, right?

I don’t even have all the data I would need to make that kind of decision right now. I know, there’s a TON of stuff that we all don’t know. Will we EVER get to go back to work? When? Under what circumstances? (What has to happen in order for us to be allowed back into our offices? I MISS THE COLLECTIONS!) Under what conditions? (What will it be like when we return? What will we be expected to do or not do? Will we be safe? I mean, I know they’ll try to keep us safe, but…will it actually BE safe?)

But back to that data thing. Yeah, so, daycare. When the hell are they going to reopen those? (I know, I know, it’s not safe. Just like it wasn’t safe for us to stay on campus.) We got a survey from our daycare provider a couple days ago – the same day as this email from Dr. Edwards, in fact. They were gathering feedback about possible options for when they reopen. They had already been planning to raise fees in June. We had known that for months — but not the actual RATES. But one of the things in the survey was that they might have to assess an extra “COVID-19 Surcharge” if they have to have lower ratios of teachers to students, which would mean hiring more teachers. Okay, that makes sense. I get it. I don’t like it. Nobody likes increased fees, but I totally get it. But we don’t know what that’s going to be or if they’ll do it or, or, or…

How are we supposed to make any decisions about anything when we are still stumbling around in the dark on so many fronts?

While we’ve made recent investments in marketing, recruitment, and retention, our fall enrollment is anticipated to be down once again. I share this with you in the context that our local competition is now increasing even more. Other local universities that traditionally recruited more out of state and international students understand that those two customer segments will be severely impacted because of COVID-19. As a result, they are redirecting their recruitment efforts to the local direct from high school, transfer, and unemployed sectors. Said another way, we are now seeing a heightened competition for the typical Raider Country student.

Down, down, down goes the enrollment. And with it, the revenue. Oh god. It just keeps getting worse.

Hey, I try to talk up Wright State to people if I see an opportunity. I even managed to put in a plug for it with the Meijer cashier on my excursion Sunday. (I asked if I could take her picture for my archiving project, and she said okay, and seemed interested in archiving. “You know, we have a program for it at Wright State…”)

And I’m not trying to disparage the university here. Even when I do have a beef, I try not to rant about it publicly. I like to think I’m very careful about that. I’m not stupid; I know about Googling job candidates. Not that I’m planning to leave. (I’m a two-time graduate of Wright State. Suffice it to say, I feel at home there.) But it’s clearly not out of the realm of possibility that I might be forced to leave at some point for reasons beyond my control. I think we’re ALL having those thoughts right now. Everywhere. Not just Wright State, but across higher education. The whole system is absolutely crashing.

But anyway, back to the “heightened competition in Raider Country.” Yes, I’ve had this confirmed by some folks I know with ties to University of Dayton (for instance- I’m sure they’re not the only ones). I mean, it makes sense – why “go away” for college if you might not really be able to “go away”? If colleges are still all-online for Fall, why go there? Why pay a bunch of money to huddle up in an apartment alone in a strange town, when you could have saved a bunch of money (or your parents maybe could have) by staying home and going to a fancy private university that’s actually nearby (again, if classes are all going to be online and you can’t live on-campus and get that experience anyway). I don’t know. Again, that’s just kind of the rationale that went through my mind. Or maybe it’s far simpler than that, and it’s literally just, Every single university is hurting for students these days, and it’s time to start courting absolutely everyone. I don’t know.

In the longer term, the State of Ohio has informed all public universities to plan for a 20 percent reduction in the upcoming year’s State Share of Instruction allocation. For Wright State that would translate into a revenue loss of nearly $20 million.

Departments submitted proposed FY21 budgets shortly we all got sent home in mid-March. Now they’re all being asked to chop another 20% off of their original submissions. Again, our University Librarian (bless her) has asked us for our input and any ideas we might have about cutting costs further. Jesus Christ, I don’t know what else we could chop. (Meanwhile, the cost of everything keeps going up; as I understand it, the prices for various library databases tend to blow up like balloons almost every year.) As for staff…when I started working at WSU in 2012, there were like 60-something employees in the University Libraries. Now we are down to…looks like…45 according to our staff page. (That’s actually more than I thought – a bit of good news!)

Anyway, we had to submit any ideas by this afternoon, and the library has to submit its revised proposal by tomorrow (Friday) afternoon.

I apologize, as I know this situation creates anxiety, and as I have mentioned in all of my Webex sessions, I do not give you this information to create fear. I am committed to being as transparent as possible and to bring you clarity as soon as we can. 

Yes, Dr. Edwards has twice-a-week “open” video-conferencing sessions. Anyone can pop in and ask questions or just listen. I went to the one on Tuesday and just listened to what was going on (while trying to listen to the governor’s press conference out of my other ear because they were at the same time). Dr. Edwards also does these periodically on-campus as well. I went to one of them once, and she jokingly invited us to “Stump the Chump.” Hilarious. Have I mentioned we love her?

I really appreciate her efforts to give us as much information as she reasonably can, when there’s so much that’s still so uncertain. It’s oddly comforting.

**********

Well, that’s more than enough out of me on this one. I’m sure there are “thoughts” that I didn’t even manage to put into words here. Maybe some of them I can’t even put into words right now. I don’t know.

To quote Mrs. Figg: The whole world’s gone topsy-turvy.

Recovery, Interrupted

We interrupt this chronological recounting for some “breaking news.” OK, it’s not really breaking news. Or it shouldn’t be. This should not be a surprise. But it’s still disheartening to see it in print.

See, a little background. The university where I work — Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio — has had a rough 5 or 6 years.

First, there was that whole H-1B visa scandal that hit the fan in 2015.

Then, in the spring of 2016, it came to light, rather suddenly, that the university was in serious financial distress, due to (as I understand it) very poor financial decisions at high levels. That was a bad spring; we lost two of the six full-time archivists in our department — due to voluntarily separation to take other jobs — but we were only permitted to replace one of them, bringing us down to 5 professional staff (including the department supervisor). We are still at 5 staff currently, and our department head is retiring in about 6 weeks.

We were not surprised when, shortly thereafter, the university president David Hopkins announced his retirement would be in June 2017. However, we were surprised (or at least I think we were- I know I was!) when he very suddenly resigned 3 months earlier than planned with almost no advance notice (at least none that most of us knew about). (In a bizarre and total coincidence, the date of the news article linked in the previous sentence is dated March 17, 2017, which is precisely 3 years to the day before the first day that we all started working from home for this current crisis.)

Around that same time (March 2017), Cheryl Schrader was announced as the next university president. She was our first female university president, so that’s pretty cool. Wait, was? Oh, right. Yeah, Dr. Schrader already retired too, in Dec. 2019 — also rather abruptly (it was announced in October).

It might have had something to do with all the bad blood that got brewed up during the three-week faculty strike, which kicked off for Spring 2019 semester, and made national news and may have been Ohio’s longest faculty strike in history. (That was my first semester teaching a full course by myself as an adjunct instructor — not part of the union and not part of the strike — it was all very awkward. Yippee!) A contract signed in Feb 2019 should get us through to June 2023 (fingers crossed!). As you might imagine, the strike did not exactly do wonders for student enrollment and retention.

But hey, it wasn’t all bad news in 2019. Things were really starting to look “up” in the money department. Over two years, we had dug ourselves out of the proverbial “hole.” We managed to avoid being put on fiscal watch by the state and even doubled cash reserves.

More good news in 2019: Our existing provost, Dr. Susan Edwards, became our new university president. AND WE LOVE HER. And even more good news: she won her battle with breast cancer before the year was out!

We were ALL on the road to recovery! Go Raiders!

Things were even starting to look really imminent for our new archives building that we have been fundraising for. Which is good, because our current space is getting tighter by the minute, it seems like.

And then.

And…then…

First it was just like a little bit of staticky background fuzz of another weird disease outbreak happening somewhere else in the world, around Christmas.

I’m thinking (maybe we’re all thinking?): What’s this coronavirus thing? COVID-19? Are those the same? What’s with the two terms? China’s far away. It’s probably like that SARS thing from a long time ago, where everybody got all bent out of shape about it for like a little while, and then nothing really happened here. We’re fine. This is fine. It’ll probably be like that.

And then, the buzzing got louder. We all panicked just a little bit in, what? early February, when they tested a couple of students at nearby Miami University for COVID-19. Their results came back negative, and we all relaxed. But still…

Then, things all seemed to ramp up very quickly in March. I already wrote about all that. And then on March 17, suddenly, we’re all working from home.

And a month later, we’re all still working from home.

We’re watching Governor Mike DeWine’s press conference every day at 2.

We’re listening to Dr. Amy Acton tell us how much the numbers went up.

We’re watching Lt. Governor Jon Husted attempt to answer yet another question about why people still can’t get their unemployment requests submitted, as the web site is choking on the massive volume of traffic it is receiving right now.

We’re hearing from our leaders and from the news about how bad this disease has been, not just for human health, but for the nation’s economy.

Just today in the press conference, Husted was saying how some modelers are predicting that unemployment rates could go up as high as 20%, which sorta makes Ohio’s unemployment rate of 10.9% during the Great Recession of 2009 practically adorable by comparison.

Shit is crashing and crumbling all around us.

And I think on some level, even a conscious level, I knew that the shoes (yeah not just “the other shoe” but allllll the shoes) would drop soon at the university as well.

But it was still soul-crushing to receive this email on April 20th from President Edwards.

Dear Wright State Community,
First and foremost, THANK YOU for everything all of you are doing for our students as we navigate these uncertain times! This is a difficult situation for all of us, for our families and communities, and for Wright State University. Wright State has been through a number of tough years and resilience remains the key to our success.
I am writing today to update the campus community on our continuing efforts around addressing the economic impacts of the current pandemic.
In the short term, the State of Ohio has informed us to plan for a significant reduction in what is remaining of this year’s State Share of Instruction. In addition, refunds and/or credits due to students exceed $3 million and summer enrollment has been negatively impacted, resulting in a decrease of 17 percent.
We’ve already taken and informed you of a number of steps to reduce expenses in the short term by instituting a hiring freeze on all non-approved external hires and significantly curbing expenditures in numerous areas. Today I am announcing the following additional measures that are being put in place:
• University leadership (President, Provost, Vice Presidents, Vice Provosts, and Deans) has voluntarily agreed to take a 20 percent reduction in salary.
• Hold on all non-critical university-funded capital projects.
• Freeze on all new contractual agreements for goods and services.
• Elimination of all discretionary non-compensation spending.
• Moving campus facilities into a low energy usage mode where possible.
• Freezing all university-issued ProCards.
To date, Wright State has been committed to maintaining all personnel and positions. The State of Ohio has indicated they will release a plan addressing the return to work for Ohio businesses this week. We will review the plan and its impact on university operations in order to determine future staffing plans, which may include reductions in force. It may be necessary for us to utilize Governor DeWine’s Executive Order that expands flexibility for Ohioans to receive unemployment benefits during Ohio’s emergency declaration period and utilize the provisions of the federal CARES Act that provide additional unemployment benefits.
As we look to next year the financial uncertainties presented by COVID-19 circumstances have exacerbated the existing financial challenges faced by Wright State. We must prepare for the economic impact of the pandemic on our students and their families and the university.
While we’ve made recent investments in marketing, recruitment, and retention, our fall enrollment is anticipated to be down once again. I share this with you in the context that our local competition is now increasing even more. Other local universities that traditionally recruited more out of state and international students understand that those two customer segments will be severely impacted because of COVID-19. As a result, they are redirecting their recruitment efforts to the local direct from high school, transfer, and unemployed sectors. Said another way, we are now seeing a heightened competition for the typical Raider Country student.
In the longer term, the State of Ohio has informed all public universities to plan for a 20 percent reduction in the upcoming year’s State Share of Instruction allocation. For Wright State that would translate into a revenue loss of nearly $20 million.
I apologize, as I know this situation creates anxiety, and as I have mentioned in all of my Webex sessions, I do not give you this information to create fear. I am committed to being as transparent as possible and to bring you clarity as soon as we can. We will work closely with the President’s Cabinet, the President’s Council, the Council of Deans, the Faculty Senate, and the Board of Trustees Finance Committee. I will keep the campus community updated as we develop strategies to address these very real financial challenges.
Best wishes,
Sue

(God bless her honesty and transparency. And we still love her; none of this is her fault. It all just sucks. SUCKS. And I don’t feel too weird sharing this now, since it’s already hit the news.)

Well, so much for Wright State’s recovery.

Although, it’s not just us.

Strangely, though, on the bright side (see, there I go trying to end on a high note again), at least this time it’s nothing we did.