On May 2, Ohio University introduced layoffs of a minimum of 140 unionized staff, in addition to the elimination of plenty of non-tenure monitor and probationary tenure-track positions. These actions have been taken as a part of a method for coping with a $30 million shortfall within the college’s funds that preceded the fiscal affect of the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the $110 million lower to larger schooling first introduced on Twitter on May 5 by Ohio Governor Mike DeWine, extra cuts are nearly sure to happen.
Ohio University college and employees members are in an uproar over occasions surrounding what some have labeled the “May Day Massacre,” and have taken to the streets in protest. Blame has been laid squarely on the doorstep of college directors, who’re considered by workers as having chronically mismanaged the funds. In response, a vote of no-confidence in opposition to Ohio University president Duane Nellis (alongside along with his senior vp for finance) handed overwhelmingly throughout a school senate assembly on May 5. Announcements relating to hiring freezes, the suspension of latest capital tasks, and the anticipated restructuring of departments and schools will do little to extend the recognition of directors within the weeks and months forward.
As troubling as these occasions may appear to people who’re anxious concerning the well being of the college, they pale compared to the affect that the layoffs and funds cuts can have on Athens, Ohio, the city that hosts this establishment of upper studying. Athens is a municipality of roughly 6,000 residents, which will increase exponentially when over 19,000 faculty college students are added to the combination. Hence, when Ohio University sneezes, Athens is prone to catching pneumonia.
The mayor of Athens is Steve Patterson, a former professor of psychology at Ohio University. He stepped out of his college position when he was elected mayor in 2016. Fortunately for each the college and the city, particularly at this explicit juncture in time, Mayor Patterson is well-versed in points on each side of the campus-community relationship.
Unlike most different places internet hosting massive establishments of upper studying in Ohio, Athens is without doubt one of the few municipalities whose largest employer is the college itself. For comparability functions, the University of Akron additionally introduced quite vital cuts on May 6 as a way to take care of it personal $65 million shortfall, but town of Akron probably won’t really feel the loss to the identical extent. Health care, tire manufacturing, and authorities (Akron is a county seat) make up the highest 5 main employers in that Ohio metropolis.
Mayor Patterson notes that the Ohio University workers who’ve misplaced their jobs are largely residents of Athens County, owing to the relative seclusion of their geographic location. Athens is over a hour’s drive from Columbus, and virtually three hours from Cincinnati. These residents won’t simply discover different employment within the rapid neighborhood.
The job losses damage these kinds of faculty cities in a number of methods. There is the rapid lack of earnings tax income, in addition to the lack of the residents’ buying energy within the native economic system. Coupled with the exodus of scholars this previous spring semester, there are foreboding indicators of worse issues but to return.
When requested what retains him up at night time, Mayor Patterson factors to 2 important points. First, he talks concerning the native companies which have closed as the results of the prolonged keep at dwelling order issued by the Ohio Department of Health. “I look down Court Street, and I wonder how many of these restaurants, bars, and shops will be able to afford to open again,” he stated. Second, he’s involved that the COVID-19 pandemic has uncovered the vulnerability of faculty cities to a set of extra power points surrounding demographic shifts in conventional scholar populations. “I worry that this public health issue has ripped the bandage off some warning signs about declining enrollment figures that should have been demanding more of our collective attention all along.”
While reeling, the arrival of extra springlike climate has coincided with sprigs of hope for Athens and its inhabitants. Mayor Patterson has assembled his “COVID-19 digital spherical desk” to take care of the pandemic’s affect on his city and the native economic system. Attended by almost everybody who has something to do with the fiscal well-being of the area, these conferences are designed to function a “rapid response team” to native points and issues as they come up.
In addition, and much more hopefully, Mayor Patterson and Ohio University President Nellis proceed to fulfill on a month-to-month foundation, simply as they’ve carried out because the time the 2 of them have taken workplace. In addition, the mayor has been assembly with the college senior management group twice per week since March as a result of pandemic. It could very effectively be the case that these intensified interpersonal relationships, the type that may and may develop between municipal and college leaders, could do extra to solidify a coordinated response to the COVID-19 pandemic than one thing some other outdoors entity may supply.