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)
(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.
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.
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.