Tag Archives: stay-at-home order

COVID-19 Diary: April 20-24, 2020

The saga continues.

Monday, April 20, 2020

That was the day we got that upsetting email from WSU President Edwards about the deans taking a 20% pay cut, budget not looking good, and halting all capital projects (our archives building! sad), etc. (I wrote about this on Apr 22 and Apr 23.)

Lisa and Jack working, Apr 20, 2020

Lisa and Jack working, Apr 20, 2020

Governor’s press conference announced 500 deaths so far in Ohio. There are protesters demanding the state reopen, but if we do now all our work is for nothing because cases will just sky-rocket as people gather. We need the ability to test more people, and there aren’t enough tests. My favorite protest sign is the “Give me liberty or give me death” (Patrick Henry): how about both, if you want everything reopened? Is a professional haircut or manicure really worth your life? Or your grandma’s?

The governor also announced that kids will not go back to K-12 school buildings this year, wasn’t sure yet about reopening daycares — which should be fun, if our workplaces reopen but not childcare centers? The fuck are we supposed to do? (I realize I’m fortunate that this I do not already have this problem, as many essential workers, like my grocery store clerks and gas station attendants and of course healthcare professionals, already do/might. There are special childcare centers just for essential workers, but I can’t imagine there’s enough of those right now either.)

Delicious homemade vegetable beef soup, Apr 20, 2020

Delicious homemade vegetable beef soup, Apr 20, 2020

Tuesday, April 21, 2020

I had another staff meeting in the morning via Webex. And this time, Jack “attended” the meeting with me, because Matt had to go (physically) to work for a while during that same time. This went better than I expected, as he mostly just watched TV, and I took my meeting on my university-borrowed laptop at the kitchen table where I could see him.

Matt’s trip to WPAFB was to renew his CAC card, which was expiring. (We later found out that they extended the expiration dates for everyone – similar to what the state did with driver’s licenses – so he really didn’t have to go after all, but that news came out like 1-2 days after he had already done it.) He said they had gloves, plexiglas shields, and some of the people there were in masks.

We got an email from our daycare with a survey in it. They asked things like how soon we’d like to come back (as soon as possible please!), how we felt about certain potential changes (e.g., being full-5-day-only for a while to limit the mixing of groups or raises in tuition prices to cover paying more teachers to accommodate smaller teacher-child ratios), and how we’re doing (I’ve definitely been better). They actually called again a week or two later to check on us as well.

We made homemade egg noodles again to go in stroganoff. We tried the pasta attachment for our Kitchen-Aid mixer, which we’ve had for like 10 years but never used. I think we must have done something wrong, because it all clumped together, and we ended up having…more like…egg noodle gnocchi as we pinched bits of it off and tossed in the boiling water to cook. It still tasted really good though!

homemade beef stroganoff with egg noodle gnocchi, Apr 21, 2020

homemade beef stroganoff with egg noodle gnocchi, Apr 21, 2020

I hit my 100-day streak on learning German in Duolingo. We’re slowly working our way through that Amazon Prime drama “Hunters” about Nazi hunters in the ’70s, and I’m overly pleased with myself when I can actually catch a word here and there.

One of my uncles is currently in a medical facility for some neck issues and numbness. Due to his age, he’s not a candidate for surgery. He’s also not allowed visitors due to COVID-19. So that’s sad. 😦

I did some more work after Jack went to bed, as usual…

Wednesday, April 22, 2020

I honestly don’t have much at all to say about this day. Fighting a toddler in order to work is exhausting. I started trying to map out a big back-yard garden (hmm never did finish that).

I ordered some more mask fabric from my favorite fabric store – Fabric Shack in Waynesville. (Not because I ran out of fabric – that will likely never happen, with my stash, but because…I wanted more/different fabric. Also, small business!)

I wrote the first post about Dr. Edwards’ email “Recovery, Interrupted,” and apparently this post was extremely popular, receiving over 100 hits in the first 24 hours!

Thursday, April 23, 2020

Again, not much to say about this day.

Wright State University Libraries staff members for National Library Workers' Day, posted to the library's social media Apr 23, 2020

Wright State University Libraries staff members (my co-workers) for National Library Workers’ Day, posted to the library’s social media Apr 23, 2020

Jack insisted on drinking water out of a small glass measuring cup, holding it by the handle like a coffee cup. Weirdo. Whatever, I’ll allow it. My standards are on a pretty serious slide these days. Is he likely to get hurt doing it? (How hurt…?) Is he likely to cause property damage doing it? (How much property damage…?) Yeah. The Me of two months ago would never believe I’ve now (as of this writing) stooped to letting him play Play-Doh on the floor of my office… Anyway.

We did finally get out the Kinetic Sand that he got for Easter, too. I’m extremely impressed with it. It really does stick only to itself (and not you) and doesn’t make a mess. As advertised! It has a weird…stretchy…consistency…but I really have no complaints! Would recommend.

Lisa and Jack, kinetic sand, Apr 23, 2020

Lisa and Jack, kinetic sand, Apr 23, 2020

I wrote the second post about Dr. Edwards’ email “Interruption Redux” – mainly because I spent so much time writing the back story on the first post that I didn’t have much time to dissect the actual email before it was really late, and I was really hungry. That one wasn’t quite as popular as the first post.

Friday, April 24, 2020

Emergency staff meeting to discuss emergency supply budget cuts and a few details about reopening – like do we want plexiglas shields? (Yes!) Where? (Everywhere! jk – but no seriously, both sides of our L-shaped desk.)

Later, we took a ride, and I got Matt to take me to Home Depot – I went in, and Jack and Matt waited in the truck – to buy “a few” plants. I had been getting nervous about whether places would have plants. I keep looking at the Burpee web site (you can actually order plants?!), and they always seem to be out of everything I want. Well, Home Depot had plenty of vegetable plants and seeds and everything else – so “I’ll be happy if I can just get a few tomato and zucchini plants this year” turned into “oops I spent $200 in the garden section.” (I probably could have gotten a little better price at Lowe’s, but Lowe’s had a line to get in due to the new social distancing/capacity limitations, and Home Depot did not.) I also noticed that there were not many people wearing masks in Home Depot; even some of the employees were not wearing them.

Flowers, vegetables, and herbs from Home Depot, Apr 24, 2020

Flowers, vegetables, and herbs from Home Depot, Apr 24, 2020

In happy-fun-time Toddler News, Jack has learned how to unlock and open the front door, so Matt installed some preventative measures on that. SIGH. On the bright side, our house sits back a bit from the road, and the street is not at all busy and ends in a cul-de-sac, so the odds of him actually getting hit by a car are low, I think? But more like, he’d just wander off and someone on the Nextdoor app would post a pic and be like, “Ey, did somebody lose a toddler?”

Once again, stayed up until midnight working in order to get shit done. Story of our lives these days.

Trying to work with cats, Apr 24, 2020

Trying to work with cats, Apr 24, 2020

cats asleep in cat beds

My two midnight “co-workers” sleeping on the job, Apr 24, 2020

**********

FUNNY STUFF (AND SOME NOT FUNNY) FROM AROUND THIS TIME

“Quarantine is a great time to get ahead on your research and writing,” say academics while thousands of people are dying. (Hey, I’m guilty too; been doing a lot of online professional development lately.)

“What Face Masks Say About a Person” comic

Tweet from @MatthewModine, Apr 21, 2020:

Tweet from @MatthewModine, Apr 21, 2020: “The coronavirus didn’t break America. It revealed what was already broken.”

Masks plus Social Distancing vs Coronavirus

Masks plus Social Distancing vs Coronavirus

Why wear a mask graphic

Why wear a mask graphic (no idea if those percentages are accurate or based on science, but the gist is valid as far as I understand things)

How do we exit the Groundhog Day loop?

How do we exit the Groundhog Day loop?

How I used to begin work emails vs. How I begin work emails now

How I used to begin work emails vs. How I begin work emails now: SO TRUE. I feel like a horrible callous person if I forget to include some version of “I hope you’re doing well” in my emails now.

Quarantine State of Mind

Quarantine State of Mind: did I post this already? Ah well it’s worth posting again!

Isolation Well-Being Checklist

Isolation Well-Being Checklist: A nice sentiment and probably good advice, and I would LOVE IT if I had even close to enough time to complete this list daily.

Coronabingo card

Coronabingo card: YASSSS another Coronavirus Bingo card, and I AM HERE FOR IT. (BTW I’ve done almost everything on this card, except bangs and TikTok.)

And finally, last but not least (I really should do a post solely in Hunger Games memes)…

Effie Trinket from Hunger Games: States opening back up like

Effie Trinket from Hunger Games: States opening back up like “may the odds be ever in your favor.”

THE END

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.

COVID-19 Diary: April 9-12, 2020 (Easter Time)

I’ll be honest with you, part of the reason I wrote the “Random Toilet Paper Thoughts” entry last night was because I wanted to sit down and write something but didn’t really want to write about Easter weekend just yet. Plus, who doesn’t like a good break from the day-to-day once in a while, right?

Easter this year was kind of a shit show. I initially wrote in my paper diary that this was the first major holiday we had ever spent away from our families (who live 2 hours away anyway, so I guess that makes it easier to resist the temptation to blow off the whole “social distancing from anyone who doesn’t live with you” thing). But upon further reflection, I recall that this is not the case. When the archives was open on Sundays, we were not closed on Easter Sunday, and I am sure I worked at least one of those. And I’m pretty sure there was another Easter (or maybe it was the same one?) where I didn’t go home, and I recall a lot of crying that day for reasons I won’t get into. And then, there was my son’s first Thanksgiving, when we didn’t go home because he was sick, and we didn’t want to be those assholes who came anyway with a sick child because we “didn’t want to miss it.” Yeah, and everyone else doesn’t want you to give them strep throat or the stomach flu or whatever the hell else it might be (we weren’t sure yet at the time). I made a lasagna for us to eat, and I have this sad picture of me sitting on the floor, holding a pitiful sick baby with one arm and eating lasagna from a plate on an ottoman with the other hand.

But I digress… While I may sometimes fantasize about spending a nice quiet holiday at home by ourselves — instead of packing up everything, traveling 2 hours, and either being away from home for days or (perhaps worse?) making it a whirlwind trip of only 1-2 days (such as Easter, when we usually have to work Friday and Monday) — well, this was my chance, right?! We had our own holiday at home! We could make our own traditions — or at least do the usual ones, at our own speed and style — right? This is an opportunity!

OK.

Guys.

I did my best to make this holiday special for just the three of us.

I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who really gave a shit.

And I’m just hoping that Jack wasn’t sufficiently traumatized by the bad parts as to actually remember any of them.

And I realized that the real reason we get together with our families and friends for holidays is actually strength in numbers.

Facebook post: I think I know the real reason we celebrate holidays with family and friends: Strength in numbers

Facebook post, April 12: I think I know the real reason we celebrate holidays with family and friends: Strength in numbers

Thursday, April 9, 2020

This was a pretty bad day for me as far as work (and really everything else too) goes, because Matt had to be gone for a lot of the day. And, as my son is a toddler and not an infant, he currently stays awake for most of the day. So you can see my problem.

Mask and gloves in Matt's truck before he left for the day

Mask and gloves in Matt’s truck before he left for the day

Matt had to go to work for a few hours to get “up to speed” on some stuff at his new job, to increase the amount of projects he’s able to work on from home. (He was only physically there 2 days before he had to start working from home.) Then since he was already in the area where all the stores are, he ran some grocery errands. (I already talked about these in the previous entry.) He wore his new mask everywhere. He said he did not have to stand in any lines to get into any of the stores (like Sam’s Club or IGA). Then after dinner, he went out again to pick up our ClickList grocery order at Kroger (in Fairborn), and he had to wait in line (in the line of cars) for TWO HOURS. He had offered to take the baby with him so I could have some peace, but Jesus, I’m so glad he didn’t. (The previous time we did ClickList a couple weeks earlier, the entire round-trip literally only took 30 minutes!)

ClickList Pickup Line at Kroger in Fairborn, Ohio, April 9, 2020, 6:47 p.m.

ClickList Pickup Line at Kroger in Fairborn, Ohio, April 9, 2020, 6:47 p.m.

Kroger ClickList line, 8:03 p.m.

ClickList Pickup Line at Kroger in Fairborn, Ohio, April 9, 2020, 8:03 p.m.

I put Jack to bed on my own, and he was crying a lot (not wanting to go to sleep), and I couldn’t take it, so I went to the garage — where I wouldn’t be able to hear him cry because I had had it — planning to sit in my car, when realized it was gone because oh yeah, Matt took it to Kroger. (I have an SUV; he has a truck.) So I sat in a camp chair in the garage, practicing my German on Duolingo. Then after I’d sat still for too long, the motion-sensor lights went off. And I just continued to sit there, in the dark (except for the light of my phone screen), waiting for Matt to come home. When he finally got home, he was like, “Why are you sitting in the dark all creepy?”

Because I needed some goddamn peace, that’s why.

After we got all the groceries (about 1/2 of what we actually ordered- they were out of everything else) inside and put away, I insisted that he watch some Netflix with me instead of going to the basement to play on his computer. He did so, without a word.

Friday, April 10, 2020

This was a better day, work-wise. Matt made sure I got plenty of big chunks of good-concentration time, and I was able to make good progress on an important project related to our efforts to collect COVID-19 diaries (such as this one).

Mom sent Jack some Easter presents in the mail, so we recorded a video of him opening the box up. I think he was most excited about the chocolate, haha.

Mom also mentioned in a text that she would be at church from 12-1. I almost had a fit, until later she clarified that she should have put it in quotation marks (“at church”) because she just meant she was watching the Good Friday service online. She said all the bishops have closed all the Catholic churches in compliance with the governor’s stay-at-home order, so she couldn’t physically go to Mass even if she wanted to.

I started looking at buying vegetable plants and/or seeds online. (I know it’s late for seeds.) I’m getting nervous about whether I’ll be able to find what I want when the time finally comes. (We don’t plant until the first or second week of May here; our last freeze can be really late and kill everything.)

Easter Ideas (Goals) in my goal journal

Easter Ideas (Goals) in my goal journal

Jack and I (and Matt) made cut-out sugar cookies after dinner. Jack loves to bake, and making cookies was on my list of “Easter goals.” (I legit made a list in my goal journal- see above.) Jack and I mixed everything up. He loves putting ingredients in the bowl. Then we got to the rolling part, and I don’t know how I sucked Matt into helping with that part, but he did. And it was very frustrating for everyone involved. Matt did a great job rolling, it wasn’t that. But I think it was too close to bedtime when we started, and the baby is two, and he was being contrary, not listening, trying to “do it himself,” and sticking his fingers into/through the dough (like poking holes in the cookies), trying to “help” pick them up and put them on the cookie sheet.

Baking cookies, April 10, 2020

Baking cookies, April 10, 2020

Oh my goodness. There was yelling. There was crying (only Jack). I hope he either doesn’t remember or only remembers that we made cookies and how delicious they were. And they were. I have a favorite go-to baking recipes web site called Live Well Bake Often, and I consider the author Danielle to be the Muse of Baking. (Here’s the sugar cookies recipe we used.) I have literally not tried a single one of her recipes that wasn’t delicious. I even made the homemade frosting for these cookies, and OH. MY. DAMN. In hindsight, making an entire batch of sugar cookies when you aren’t allowed to take them anywhere to share with people was probably a bad decision, but oh well.

Sugar cookies with homemade frosting and (store-bought) Easter sprinkles, April 10

Sugar cookies with homemade frosting and (store-bought) Easter sprinkles, April 10

In the evening, after Jack was in bed, I needed some “sewing therapy.” I tried out a new “3D” mask pattern from YouTube (by ArtThao162). I had noticed that there were a lot of videos (for this type of mask in particular) that were not in English (they mostly appeared to be from Asia). And someone had told me that Asians really know their masks because it is fairly common to wear them over there, not just because of COVID-19. I will say, I like the mask pattern by ArtThao162 a lot. I later (Sunday night- needed more thread-therapy) found a video for a very similar but slightly simpler (and faster-to-make) mask by Crafty Daily. I think the ArtThao162 may hold its shape better after washing, but…I think I can get the creases back in the Crafty Daily one by just ironing them back in, if I find that it matters. Anyway, here are a couple pictures- the first is me in the ArtThao162 mask, and the second is Matt wearing the one I made from the Crafty Daily pattern. (I have since made several Crafty Daily’s for family members.)

Lisa in the ArthThao162 mask

Lisa in the ArthThao162 mask

Matt in the Crafty Daily mask

Matt in the Crafty Daily mask

Masks hanging by the door to the garage, Apr. 11

Masks hanging by the door to the garage, Apr. 11

Saturday, April 11, 2020

The Easter Bunny got Jack’s basket ready, and I did some sewing on a drawstring pouch to hold some large wooden beads I got him. More sewing therapy! That pouch was fun. I also found the pouch pattern (by Sannari) on YouTube.

The weather Saturday was supposed to be nicer than Sunday (and it was), so we did our Easter egg hunt. I had hidden 15 plastic eggs in the front yard (with Matt’s reluctant assistance – mostly I wanted to make sure he knew where the eggs were in case Jack didn’t find them all, so he couldn’t complain later if he hit one with the lawn mower). Thankfully, Jack was able to find them all. I tried to put them mostly “in plain sight” since he’s only two years old, but there were a few that were challenging for him to find. Luckily, he never crossed the line over into “frustrated,” though. He really seemed to enjoy it. The egg hunt was definitely the highlight of the weekend festivities.

Egg Hunt 1, Saturday, April 11

Egg Hunt 1, Saturday, April 11

We all went for a ride in the car at one point. We drove down to Siebenthaler’s nursery in Beavercreek to see what we could see from the road. It looks like they have plenty of plants. So that’s definitely an option for our garden this year. We also took a ride by the stores and restaurants over on North Fairfield in Beavercreek/Fairborn. There was considerably less traffic than usual for a Saturday afternoon. The governor had recently issued the order for stores to establish a threshold for their maximum safe customer capacity in order to allow for proper “social distancing,” and so for some places that means waiting in line outside the store until it’s your turn to go inside (like that guy in southeast Asia from Matt’s YouTube video had to do!). We saw people standing in line outside of Lowe’s and JoAnn Fabrics. On the way home, we saw that the price of gasoline had dropped to $1.34 per gallon at the UDF in Enon.

Customers waiting in line outside the Lowe's home improvement store in Beavercreek/Fairborn, Ohio, Apr. 11, 2020

Customers waiting in line outside the Lowe’s home improvement store in Beavercreek/Fairborn, Ohio, Apr. 11, 2020 (notice a few masks)

Short line outside JoAnn Fabrics in Beavercreek/Fairborn, Ohio, Apr. 11

Short line outside JoAnn Fabrics in Beavercreek/Fairborn, Ohio, Apr. 11

Sunday, April 12, 2020 – Easter Sunday

It seemed like Easter was starting off okay. We all stayed in bed until 10:00. This turned out not to have been a blessing, though, as the baby had removed his diaper (again) at some point during the night and had left some little Easter eggs of his own around his room. Oh. My. God. I took him straight to the bathtub, and for some reason he hates morning baths with a fiery passion to rival the pits of Mordor, so that was fun trying to restrain him from escaping the tub AND wash him at the same time. Matt somehow slept through all of this, still. He sleeps like the dead. I later stripped the crib, and Matt ran the big carpet shampooer all over the room.

Matt did make waffles for breakfast, and those were pretty good.

And the boy seemed pleased with what the Easter Bunny had brought him. He fixed on the Legos immediately, and he has since gotten really into the wooden beads (in the pouch!). AND OBVIOUSLY THE CHOCOLATE. I got my little Chocolate Monster honest; chocolate is very important to me as well.

Easter Basket, April 12, 2020

Easter Basket, April 12, 2020

The Bunny overdid it a bit, because a few weeks before Easter when we were suddenly in need of activities…thought to save them for the basket…should have just gotten them out to play. Actually, I realize now there’s still a couple things I forgot to get out and give him – hid them in a separate place – Mom warned me about that, haha…

The rain held off for a while, and we were able to hide and hunt Easter eggs in the yard again, which Jack really enjoyed. This was (again) by far the highlight of the day.

Egg Hunt 2, Apr. 12

Egg Hunt 2, Apr. 12

We colored a half-dozen Easter eggs. Jack kept spilling the dye cups, and Matt was about to lose it. We’ve all got pretty short fuses these days. About half of the eggs somehow ended up cracked. Oh well. My salads have had some colorful diced egg in them this week. As you can see, I even wore silly bunny ears to try to make things festive. Also, as you can see, Matt is not exactly having the time of his life. At least Jack looks excited? Hopefully he was not scarred by the chaos that ensued every time he spilled that yellow dye cup. (It was always the yellow one…and to be fair, I think the yellow one had some manufacturing defects; the plastic on that one seemed thinner and flimsier than the others…just sayin’.)

Coloring Easter Eggs, Apr. 12

Coloring Easter Eggs, Apr. 12

I feel like these Easter eggs are a pretty good metaphor for the entire weekend. BUT I TRIED, GODDAMMIT.

Matt had bought a ham for dinner and wanted some cheesy potatoes. This is what his grandma usually makes for Easter and probably what we would have been eating for dinner if we had been able to have a normal Easter with family. We also had green beans and salad. It was a pretty tasty dinner.

Easter ham and potatoes (and beans), Apr. 12

Easter ham and potatoes (and beans), Apr. 12

We made a new kind of cheesy potatoes, though, and later I think those disagreed with me. Ah, a fitting end to things. Since I felt kind of funky, I was lying on the couch, thinking about reading but not sure I had the heart for it, and so I just laid there with my eyes closed for a while. My little gray cat hopped up immediately and curled up beside me. I eventually fell asleep right there on the couch and slept all night with one or both cats next to me the whole time.

And again, let’s end with a couple of jokes. These are maybe a little dark, but they both had me ROLLING. (You might have noticed that church service was conspicuously absent from our Easter weekend. I was raised Catholic but have not practiced since my parents stopped making me…) Anyway, for your enjoyment (or at the very least hopefully not total offense), a couple of Jesus jokes for Easter 2020:

Tweet from @jessecase, March 17, 2020:

Tweet from @jessecase, March 17, 2020: “The Vatican canceled Easter. You know much stuff has to suck for the Pope to be like, ‘You know what, this year Jesus stays dead.'”

Jesus, peeking head out of cave:

Jesus, peeking head out of cave: “Can I come out yet?” Ohio Governor Mike DeWine: “Nope.” Because stay-at-home order.

I know I still have lots to be thankful for and what-not, but it’s still…not how I planned it. (HAHA THIS WHOLE YEAR IS NOT HOW I PLANNED IT.)

Anyway, here’s hoping y’all had a good Easter, and maybe we’ll have better luck next year.